RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — There are two questions many civilians ask when they meet Airmen in uniform.
The first is, “are you in the Army?” The second is something along the lines of, “what aircraft do you fly?”
Only about 12,000 of the more than 320,000 Airmen in the U.S. Air Force are pilots. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for many Airmen to feel annoyed, embarrassed, or even unimportant when asked the second question. Some might give an honest answer about their vocation while others play the “it’s classified” card.
Brig. Gen. Charles S. Corcoran, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration director of operations, addressed this topic when he delivered a speech in front of hundreds of Airmen from an array of career fields during Ramstein’s Air Force Ball celebration.
He began by recalling a time when his son asked him how his day was. It was a tough question for him to answer, given the complex nature of his job.
“How often do we go home at night and get asked about what we did at work,” Corcoran asked, relating his situation to the audience. “You don’t just simply tell them about everything you’ve been doing about air superiority, command and control, intelligence, and air mobility. They’ll look at you like you’re from outer space—or have been hanging out at the bar too long.”
Even though many Airmen cannot expound the details of their vocation to their friends or relatives, their jobs play an undeniable role in the Air Force’s daily mission accomplishment, Corcoran added. To illustrate his point, Corcoran gave the example of a recent mission involving U.S. aircraft.
A seemingly endless list of Airmen from a variety of specialty fields worked together to make the mission possible: maintenance, air traffic control, aircrew flight equipment, fuels, ammunition, intelligence, medical, food service, and many others.
Corcoran encouraged all Airmen not to be discouraged just because their work doesn’t seem glamourous or there are classified parts of their job they can’t talk about. Every Air Force specialty code is vital to the success of every mission, he said.
“So you might not tell these things to your mom and dad on the phone, but you make it happen every day,” Corcoran said. “This mission played out without turning into some kind of Hollywood drama, and it happened successfully because we did our job—every last one of us.”