Volunteering for freedom

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Dan Crawford
  • 5th Flying Training Squadron commander
Many members of Team Vance are out serving the cause of freedom this 4th of July. Currently, there are 30-plus members of various squadrons deployed around the world supporting the struggle against tyranny in the Global War on Terror.

While on vacation in New York City last month, I came across a memorial to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines lost during World War II. Like many Air Force officers, I am fascinated by history, so, much to my wife's chagrin, I had to stop and study the memorial. Hometown and assigned unit were listed by each name. I noted several fallen Airmen who were assigned to squadrons of which I had been a member. That got me thinking about the connection between the generation who fought for freedom in WW II and my connection to those same units to which I belonged during the Cold War and the first Gulf War.

Eventually, my mind wandered to think about friends and fellow squadron-mates who have deployed in support of the GWOT. Vast numbers of active component units have deployed overseas. Similarly, many Guard and Reserve units have mobilized two or three times since Sept.11, 2001, unexpectedly taking them away from their families and civilian careers.

My squadron is composed of 92 reservists whose wartime mission is to augment Vance AFB's pilot training mission. To lessen the ops tempo and to avoid further involuntary mobilizations, the Air Force Reserve depends on its reservists to volunteer for deployments. The 5th Flying Training Squadron has certainly done its fair share. To name a few: several 5th FTS members have deployed to Headquarters, Central Command and to the Tanker/Airlift Control Center; Master Sgt. Paul Williamson went to Spain and Maj. Orin Osmon just returned from the U.S. Eastern Air Defense Sector. Another warrior in the 5th FTS is Major Homer Nesmith. In 2003, he served at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt; in 2005 he did air operations planning for Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa in Djibouti and presently, he is on a 180-day deployment as the regional political director for Northern Afghanistan.

None of these reservists needed to deploy--they volunteered out of a sense of duty to our nation and a belief in its mission. They are just like the student pilots at Vance AFB. They, along with many other Airmen, joined the armed forces while our nation was at war. Just like the reservists mentioned above, they have volunteered to serve our country. Many will go in harm's way to accomplish that mission. These young men and women will soon be on the front line in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere bravely taking the fight to our enemies. I salute them as they play a major part in defending our nation and preserving its freedom.