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Force shaping: One lieutenant's view

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Kristen D. Duncan
  • 96th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Balance the officer and enlisted corps: that is the current need of the Air Force. As an officer and a second generation Airman, I've been told from day one, the 'needs of the Air Force' come first.

What happens when those needs mean the loss of my job - and not just my job, but a career of integrity, service and excellence? I vowed to protect the Constitution, to continue what my father and the greatest generation did in World War II. I am truly a patriot. I am an Airman.

With force shaping, Air Force leadership is undertaking the very difficult task of reducing its forces. In a briefing here Nov. 14, Brig. Gen. Kathleen Close, director, Installations and Mission Support, Air Force Materiel Command, said the leadership knows they could be losing a future commander, or a future general, but the Air Force can no longer support the imbalance of officers to enlisted troops. To support the mission, the service has to reduce its 2002 and 2003 lieutenants through volunteer or forced separations.

That equals more than 4,000 young, promising lieutenants. One thing is certain; the caliber of lieutenants is unparalleled. The question is: what does this do to our morale? Working on various projects, I have to wonder, will any of this mean anything if I'm force-shaped? Will I still be able to lead my troops? Is my morale going to take a nose dive? What if I work harder than I've ever worked to impress the heck out of every commander I've ever met? How do I keep focused on my job and my mission?

The answer is really quite simple. We should all work harder, not to impress for fear of losing our jobs, but because we are all officers who strive for excellence. We should continue to accomplish our jobs with the same unfailing performance and the same can-do attitude we've always had.

We should continue to work hard for our shops, our troops, our families and ourselves.

In one of the hardest hit career fields, I've examined all my options and have come up with a few ideas: navigator training, Palace Chase and even switching services. Thankfully, the Air Force is giving us options. I've come to realize, though, that serving my country means serving its needs. The needs of the Air Force must always come first.

I hope to make a career of the Blue; but even if my active-duty career is cut short, it is for the mission of the Air Force and the United States military that I will serve and honorably discharge.

It could be my last act on active-duty service, but I am, and will always be, an Airman.