You are Always on Parade

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Tamilyn Dismukes
  • 423rd Force Support Squadron
General George S. Patton, in a letter written to his son during World War II, shared with him a simple sentiment. The thought was a mere five words, “You are always on parade”, but it was meant to guide his son through his training at West Point and beyond, into his future career. It was a thought that resonated, and would help to guide the careers of many service members. As a fourth classman, at the United States Air Force Academy, this was the go-to quote for those futilely attempting to end the pain of flutter kicks or a front leaning rest. In theory, when the quote ends the physical stress ends. While this almost never succeeded, it was always worth a try. Over the first summer as a basic trainee, the first year as a four degree, and the four years of the Academy, that quote is ingrained in every cadet and ultimately every officer’s mind. It is a quote that is as true today as when Patton shared it with his son, and it has helped me greatly throughout my career. While I think of it often, I would like to share two examples of when this quote was at the forefront of my mind.

Thirteen years ago, when I was a First Lieutenant, I had been selected for the 2005 Tops in Blue team along with two other officers. While Tops in Blue may sound like a fun, upbeat and easy tour, behind the scenes the crew was subjected to excruciating practices and intensive touring schedules. Two months into the assignment, while we were in ‘staging’ (the process of learning the show’s routines), the exhaustion of training for eighteen hours a day, seven days a week was taking its toll on the team. There were strict rules regarding practice time; if you were not rehearsing on the stage then you were practicing in the wings. There was never a second to be wasted.

One day, while practicing in the wings, I decided that instead of standing while stretching my aching body, I would sit down to stretch. It was an idea that seemed innocuous at the time. Within ten minutes every single team member in the wings was sitting down; some were continuing to stretch while others were outright taking a break. At the eleventh minute everyone was called on stage and reprimanded for our lack of discipline as a team. The importance of Patton’s quote hit home at that moment. My well intentioned and seemingly harmless behavior had triggered a chain reaction throughout my entire team. I learned that I must be keenly be aware of my actions and how they are viewed by my Airmen. I am always on parade.

The second example I’d like to share occurred during my recent participation in a Remembrance Day ceremony at Higham Ferrers, England. It is a day when the United Kingdom remembers and honors those who have sacrificed themselves to secure and protect the freedom of others. It seemed like the entire town had braved the brutal weather to come out and either view or participate in the ceremony. As the formation gathered, it became very apparent that I was the only member of the United States military in attendance. I was standing as the only representative for my country in recognition of a long honored tradition of the United Kingdom. In this town, I was a representative of the partnership between our countries. As I placed my wreath of poppies in remembrance of fallen heroes, it occurred to me that fellow United States’ servicemen and women, acting as representatives of our country, were placing similar wreaths in towns across Cambridgeshire. You are always on parade.

Patton’s quote expresses a sentiment that I hope every member of the United States Air Force understands. Regardless of rank or occupation, every Airman is a representative of our military and our country. Every action we take means something. Someone always sees us, whether it’s a subordinate, a peer, a senior leader, a dependent, or a citizen of another country. We are always on parade.