Warfighting ethos: heritage, honor, valor, Doolittle’s raid

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Editor’s note: Warfighting ethos is a multipart series highlighting the Airman’s Creed from the perspective of Shaw Air Force Base first sergeants. This is the second story in the series. All statements should be viewed as each individual’s opinion and not of the Air Force as a whole.

I am faithful to a Proud Heritage,
A Tradition of Honor,
And a Legacy of Valor.

On April 18, 1942, the rhythmic pounding of 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers’, 1,700 horsepower supercharged 14 cylinder radial engines, resonated out over the bow of the U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet.

On that day 80 Airmen set forth on a mission, which their commander estimated only had a 50 percent chance of survival. Armed with the Chinese phrase “lusha hoo metwa fugi,” – I am American – and laden with the buzzing of the twin engines of the aircraft in their ears, the men began a journey to avenge the service members who lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941.

The raid, led by then Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle, marked the first strategic bombardment by the U.S. Army Air Forces in the Pacific during World War II.

The raiders represent the spirit of creativity and innovation, progressively growing the service into the modern day Air Force of today, said Dr. Doug Lantry, the National Museum of the United States Air Force historian regarding the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid.

"If we don't understand our history, we cannot understand the warfighting contribution that we make (today)," Retired Air Force Gen. T. Michael Moseley, former chief of staff of the Air Force, said in 2007. "In World War II it took hundreds of bombers to drop hundreds of thousands of bombs on a city, flying into harm’s way with a realization that the aircraft may not return," he explained. "Today, with the air supremacy we provide and the technology we use, we are far more lethal and effective."

In 2007 Moseley instituted regulations to help build the foundation of a combat Airman. A warrior’s ethos, “has always been a part of an Airman's character, but some people may have lost sight of it," said Moseley. "This warrior ethos exhibits a hardiness of spirit, and moral and physical courage."

The same year he authorized an Airman’s Creed, a statement of beliefs designed to ignite a surge of the esprit de corps, values, pride and heritage which define the unique capabilities of an American Airman.

Airmen are in the Air Force for however long they choose to be, but when a person leaves they are still part of the Air Force, said Senior Master Sgt. Keith Rivers, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron first sergeant, about why Airmen should care about their heritage.

“Heritage is what you have learned from your mentors and supervisors and (they learned) from the Airmen before them,” he said. “Whatever you bring will be passed down to the Airmen who take your place.

“I’m sure that anyone you ask can tell you who their military training instructor was,” Rivers said. “My MTI was Tech. Sgt. Susan Sterns, she was a bomb loader on a B-52 Stratofortress, and she brought a lot of things to the table that I still use today.

“If she had an issue with an Airman she could be tough as nails but then she knew how to soften it in a closed forum (by saying) ‘I had to correct your behavior and I had to show you what you were doing is wrong,’ but behind closed doors there was still a shared level of respect, even though there was a difference in rank.”

Rivers also collated the importance of heritage, with an understanding of how the forefathers of the Air Force, like Doolittle, gave us the culture we have today.

The Doolittle Raid was very motiving for our country at that time, Rivers said. Doolittle was able to put bombers on an aircraft carrier and show the Empire of Japan American ingenuity, this very concept is what makes us who we are today.

Additional reporting by Staff Sgt. Matthew Rosine, Air Force News Agency, May 2007, and Bryan Ripple , 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs.