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12th Air Force Commander reminds Airmen 'Why we fight'

LAYTON, Utah -- "Never forget what we ask these men and women to do," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Robin Rand, 12th Air Force commander, as he addressed a crowded room full of 388th Fighter Wing nominees and annual award winners at the wing's annual banquet Feb. 7.

Rand quoted Casper Weinberger in his book, "Home of the Brave," in describing military warriors:

"Every morning in cities across the world, 2.4 million Americans wake up, put on the uniform, and kiss their loved ones goodbye and head out the door to defend freedom. In exchange they ask for nothing when the spotlight is on them, they fidget uncomfortably as if they somehow have been given undue attention. I'm no hero, they will tell you. The Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors of the United States military are simply the best among us."

In addition to thanking Col. Scott Long, 388th FW commander, for the opportunity to talk to some of the top Airmen at Hill Air Force Base the general said, "The bottom line is (that) the nominees, the ones with the medallions, have an inner life of integrity, service, and excellence -- the core values that make our Air Force what it is today."

Rand highlighted some qualifications of the nominees:

· A nominee who loaded more than 300 JDAMs to be delivered against the enemy.
· A key spouse who took on the duties of another spouse who was ill.
· A nominee who volunteered for deployment outside of his weapon system bringing his Viper expertise to 160 combat missions in the MC-12.

He posited the question: Why do we serve?

Rand reviewed some of the previous accomplishments of warriors who fought against uncertain odds aboard B-17 bombers in World War II when it was probable 40 percent of them would not return to their home base.

He mentioned the Phantom pilots' accomplishments in Vietnam who pointed the nose of their aircraft at the enemy forces on the ground when they could not save themselves, and the intense focus of an F-16 Falcon pilot Troy Gilbert, who became so focused he drove his aircraft into the ground trying to save Army rangers and others overrun by insurgent forces.

While quoting a famous Spartan general at the battle of Thermopoly, the general went on to suggest that the reason Airmen serve is for the man on the left of them, the man on the right.

Two Airmen were fired upon during an air operations break at Baghdad International Airport in Iraq. One received a fractured collar bone, a lacerated spleen, and other injuries. The other fared almost as badly. They were so severely injured they were put into induced comas, and the men were not able to be airlifted from the ICU they were being treated in to better care. Their commander wanted to deliver their Purple Hearts to them when they finally became conscious.

When told they were near their departure and conscious, he visited them. In the ICU tent containing nearly 12 beds, across the aisle from each other, he found that one could not reply, except to have tears form in his eyes, because of all the tubes in his body.

The other Airman, when presented with his Purple Heart, motioned with his arm. The commander paused thinking he was angry because of the morphine and uncertain of his reaction, but a nurse described the action as asking for a pen. When provided one, he wrote the name of his badly injured comrade with a question mark.

"What do you think he asked?" Rand said.

"Do not forget what we ask of these men and women and what they do," he said. "It is an honor to be in your midst. Thank you."