By Col. Charles Brown
19th Airlift Wing commander
Many Airmen – enlisted and commissioned – enter the Air Force at young ages. Right out of the gate, new troops are trusted with immense responsibilities.
These responsibilities, no matter how large or small they may be, play a role in shaping our Airmen’s work ethic. Their work ethic reflects their loyalty and devotion to the Air Force.
Staff Sgt. Tommy Duncan, 19th Security Forces K-9 trainer, is an example of an Airman who’s had great responsibilities entrusted to him, ultimately shaping the type of Airman he is today.
Imagine multiple families gathering around an airport gate, eagerly awaiting their loved ones arrival with welcome home signs decorated with American flags. The first group of Airmen emerge and embrace their families.
Tommy walks out of the gate with his military working dog Ricsi, and sees his wife. In that moment, while Tommy wants nothing more to hug his family, he must complete his mission to get Ricsi home. After passing Ricsi to the waiting handler and completing the transfer paperwork, Tommy was able to reunite with his family.
While deployed, Tommy volunteered to lead a project that would rebuild the kennels. The goal of the project was to boost the quality of life for the military working dogs. By volunteering to see the $1 million project to completion, Tommy extended his six-month deployment to eight months.
For nearly a year, Tommy and Ricsi spent every single waking moment together. While they were deployed, Ricsi gave Tommy care and protection. Now Tommy felt he owed his partner the same by making sure his dog’s needs were met before his own even while travelling.
Tommy couldn’t just check into a hotel and sleep until his next flight. For each layover, Tommy had to kennel Ricsi and check in every four hours.
Tommy and Ricsi stopped four times before returning to Little Rock; taking them a week to return home. Most redeployers take about four days.
Upon arriving, Tommy chose to walk past his family, friends and coworkers. He chose to walk past his wife, whom he had left after being married for two months. He chose to place their precious reunion on hold so he could complete his duty and care for Ricsi as he had cared for him.
Tommy’s commitment to his mission demonstrates Service Before Self, a vital Air Force core value. Tommy and many other Airmen joined an organization to be part of something bigger than themselves. Their selfless dedication and sacrifice to this organization makes me proud to lead and serve with these Airmen.
Our Airmen learn a variety of skills throughout the Air Force. Along with their skills, they gain and practice a superb work ethic that contributes to the world’s greatest Air Force, an Air Force driven by our Airmen. It is that work ethic, forged through responsibilities and dedication that our Airmen bring with them as they go on to accomplish great things across the globe.