The Value of Tradition

  • Published
  • By CMSgt Tommy T. Snider
  • 422 CS
When I walked into the 422d Communications Squadron a little over a year ago, I was amazed to see the heritage room…the Tiger's Den.  It was immediately obvious to me there was a lot of pride in this unit…my new squadron.  The legacy equipment, the historical documents and memorabilia, the earned awards and accolades.  It was refreshing to see so much of this squadron’s heritage preserved.

Over my 28 years, I have seen a lot of heritage and tradition fall by the wayside, either thru political correctness, policy, generational gaps, or worst of all apathy.  We have seen the removal of nose art from our aircraft, the loss of squadron patches and hats, the attempted disassociation of the Chief’s Group from Indian symbols, and most recently the banishment of tacking of stripes and other rights of passage…the list goes on.  As a young Airman, one of my goals was to make Chief.  I watched newly minted “Jeep Chiefs” with the jeep and wanted someday to be that guy.  Another time honored tradition we have let slip away.

I’d have to admit I was not a big fan of the Airman’s Creed when it was rolled out in 2007.  Not so much for what it said, but for what it was to replace.  While the Airman’s Creed was a singular creed that would represent all Airmen…part of the intent was to replace the NCO, SNCO, First Sergeant’s and Chief’s Creed’s.  Again, unnecessarily doing away with tradition and heritage of certain groups. There were a lot of Enlisted Airmen up in arms.  It has taken a while for some of us to embrace the Airman’s Creed.  Personally, I had to find something that resonated with me.   Now, as you might imagine, my favorite part of the Airman’s Creed is “I am faithful to a Proud Heritage, a Tradition of Honor and a Legacy of Valor."

We are the most junior service by far, our 71 years as a separate service pales when compared to our sister services 243 years.  Those services have traditions that have endured since the birth of our country.  These are simple things that mean a lot, for example the oldest and youngest Marine cutting the annual Marine Corps birthday cake.  Or, the Navy’s “Crossing the Line” ceremony which celebrates the Sailors who crossed the Equator for the first time.  I’d argue that we are too young of a service to dispense with some of our heritage.  It is our culture, our traditions.  Heritage makes us who we are.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice once said, “When you start wiping out your history, sanitizing your history to make you feel better, it’s a bad thing.”  I think her statement has relevance here.

I am not advocating we bring some of these things back, I am however advocating that we hold onto the traditions, heritage and culture we still have left.  As I approach my final years in the Air Force, the thing I would pass on to our younger Airmen is for them to learn from the past, celebrate the previous 71 years’ worth of accomplishment, embrace some of the things they might find obsolete and not let our unique culture go by the wayside.