What it means to serve

  • Published
  • By Maj. Robert Bearden
  • 8th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander
During a recent operational readiness exercise, I was making my rounds checking on my Airmen. In the course of this, I spoke with one of my Korean National employees, and he asked how I was doing. Several days into the exercise, standing in a hot warehouse in Mission Oriented Protective Posture 2 (MOPP 2), I responded honestly and told him I was doing well, but also hot and tired.

His short reply reset my perspective. He reminded me and simply said a tired G.I. ensures a wary North Korea.

I left that conversation with a renewed sense of purpose, thankful again for the wonderful Korean Nationals in my squadron and the perspective they bring to our mission here. As I reflected on that conversation further, I realized it was a good example for my Airmen.  It illustrates the fact that each of us deters North Korean aggression simply by our presence here in the Republic of Korea.

Unfortunately, I think we often take that fact for granted and underestimate the importance of our role here. The other mistake I think we make is we sometimes assume that if we were not here, someone else would be.

With this thought in mind I did some quick research to see who would fill our shoes if we were not here. According to the U.S. Census Bureau web site, the current U.S. population is about 303 million, and according to the Department of Defense's web site there are currently 1.3 million personnel on Active Duty, and another 1.1 million in the Guard and Reserve. Assuming these numbers are correct, we can then assume that less than one percent of the current U.S. population is serving in the military today. The math works out that 99.2 percent of the U.S. population is not currently serving in the military and, when you include veterans, 91percent of the population is not serving today and has not previously served.

Think about that. If 91percent of the population is not serving today, and has not served previously, can you reasonably assume someone else would take our places if we were not here? I don't think so. At the end of the day, we must consider the fact that the simple presence of each Airman on the Korean peninsula is a very real deterrent to North Korean aggression. We cannot take for granted the presence of each service member. Not every American has or will make the choice to serve in this manner.

With that in mind, remember to thank your fellow Airmen for the decision they made to serve, and for their service here in the great Republic of Korea. Remind each other of the importance of our presence here - because a tired G.I. ensures a wary North Korea.