by Brigadier General David Warner, USAF (Ret.)
Congratulations on your commission! Now what? You have walked the long hard road, surviving to receive the prize—a commission in the U.S. military. As you embark on the next phase of your journey, let me recommend competence, courage, and commitment as keys to your blueprint for successfully integrating faith and profession as military leaders.
Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before Kings; he will not serve before obscure men (Proverbs 22:29, English Standard Version).
On my first day of active duty I soon crossed paths with a steely eyed chief master sergeant. As the son of one, I readied myself for what would be a seminal moment in my short career—the CMSgt saluting me, a brand new “butter bar.” Later that night in a phone call with my dad—THE Chief—I excitedly blurted out, “Dad, guess what? I was saluted today by a chief just like you!” I could feel him reaching through the phone line to put another knot upside my head. “Son, he wasn’t saluting you. He was saluting the rank.”
It’s not about you. It’s about what your rank and position represents. You have been called to this profession of arms to perform a certain function, perhaps as a pilot, infantry officer, or my favorite—cyber warrior! You must earn a hearing from others through your professional excellence. People are attracted to leaders who are competent professionals, giving it their all. On the spiritual side, once you’ve earned the right to be heard, be ready with an answer to the question, “What makes you different?” Know the Scriptures, have your testimony down to the two-minute drill—be ready once you’ve earned a hearing!
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong (1 Corinthians 16:13).
While in a group command, I had a squadron commander, though a solid officer, was not providing the leadership I believed his squadron needed. Through prayer, and much wise counsel and advice, I relieved him of command. A week later, I asked my sharpest young airman what the scuttlebutt was in the squadron. I’ve never forgotten her answer: “We all knew action was needed, we’re surprised action as taken.”
Throughout your career you will face many challenging and difficult situations. People are watching to see how you will respond. Be strong and courageous as you do the right thing—not the popular or easy thing. It takes courage to make the right calls for your unit and the mission. From a spiritual aspect, you must be prepared to count the cost of your convictions.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (Colossians 3:23).
I had a first sergeant who gave me his greatest gift—his loyalty. But his loyalty wasn’t to me personally, but to the position I held. If he ever saw me deviating from what he felt the mission and people demanded, he would take me to school over it.
Where does your loyalty lie? Along with competence and courage, you must be committed to the mission of your unit. When folks on your team look at you, are they seeing someone they can trust, someone they know who will have their back, and someone who puts the good of the unit ahead of their own agenda?
Similarly, as you run your race in uniform, do others see Christ in you through your commitment to Him? Do they know you’re a Christian? Will they know Whom you serve by the way you treat them and others?
Your OCF family is proud of you for choosing to serve our nation and for your Christian witness. We are honored to come alongside you—as you start to run your race for Christ in uniform.