Be a Patriot: Stay informed, involved with changes with pride, enthusiasm

  • Published
  • By Col. Douglas Railey
  • 551st Electronic Systems Group commander
Patriotism -- what is it? In my mind, there is only one definition. It is the love and loyal support of one's country. The word patriotism comes from the Greek word Patris, which means Fatherland. As a patriot, you must have an attachment to our country's land and people, admiration for its customs and traditions, pride in its history, and a devotion to its welfare. It requires public service and responsibility of all citizens. It is a feeling of pride and belonging to the nation. Like our national motto states -- E Pluribus Unum -- One of Many.

We all need to be better informed about our country in order to be the best patriots possible. As a young man growing up in an Air Force family, I was taught, very early on, what it means to be an American and I developed a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions.

Unlike the days after World War II when everyone had a great feeling and sense of patriotism, my formative years were during and after the Vietnam War. There were mixed emotions and our country was torn with little celebration of democratic values, lack of pride and questions about America being special.

But now that we are in the year 2006, many things have changed. In the early 1980s when I entered service, under President Reagan's leadership, it was a time we once again felt proud about our service and our nation. In the 1990s Desert Shield and Desert Storm kept that pride alive. Sept. 11, 2001 no doubt brought back a resurgence of patriotism and made people think and do something to show their pride for our nation. As we continue to fight terrorism around the world, America stands proud that it is indeed special.

As I look back on my 24-year career in the Air Force, one of the most rewarding aspects of my service is the people -- military members, civilians and contractors -- I have worked with over the years. Many have become life-long friends and many have been great mentors to me. All are unmatched in professionalism and dedication to the mission, protecting the nation and taking care of people.

As you progress through your career, you will develop your own set of friends, mentors and teammates. Your ability to support, train and mentor your team is so important to the Air Force mission because the team is only as strong as the weakest link. By doing so, you will continue the tradition of excellence within the Air Force and it will prepare you and your team for the inevitable changes the Air Force faces and will face in the future.
It is said that change is the one sure thing in this world. I have seen and participated in a lot of change within the Air Force during my career as we have adapted to our evolving environment. Today brings a lot of change due to the Global War on Terror and our own defensive efforts within this country.

I have noticed those people who have the right attitude toward change have been the most successful at growing with the change. One thing you can do to prepare yourself for change is to broaden your experience background. Step out of your comfort zone and tackle other areas of responsibility that you may not be as familiar with; volunteer for those additional duties and jobs you previously stayed away from. By doing so, you will increase your breadth of experiences, which will help you lead organizations through the many changes the future inevitably brings.

Borrowing from one organization's tenets as they approached a major change in their environment:

Engage: Get involved and participate. For us here at Electronic Systems Center, it's through initiatives such as Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century, National Security Personnel System and Balanced Scorecard.

Embrace: Adopt the way ahead; share the good ideas that get generated and give full support to leadership and lead others to participate.

Drive: Bring your own personal influence and enthusiasm to see it through to the end.
I have never been more excited about the future of America and our Air Force than I am today. As I look around, I see an Air Force team that is extremely smart, very motivated and has top leadership at all levels. With your service and leadership, the future greatness of the Air Force is assured.

As you celebrate Thanksgiving, remember you are serving our Air Force, and our nation, with pride and that you are a patriot.

Let's give thanks and keep that special feeling forever.