“I will not fail.”

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There I was, being recognized for this very blog in front of all the commanders, first sergeants and chiefs from around base. Col. Wiegand, the commander of the 115th Fighter Wing, shook my hand and I felt it…my first ever commanders coin! My excitement must have been way too much to handle and still keep my military bearing. Why do I say that?! Well, because I completely forgot to salute (GASP). That’s right folks; I forgot to salute THE base commander!

As I stood to the side of the briefing room in building 404, I kept replaying the moment over and over in my head. Should I go up to him after and salute him? Should I send him an email with a “virtual salute?” Should I just try to erase one of the most prized moments of my military career, so I can forget the mistake I made?

After a silent walk back to my office and a bit of pondering, I remembered some words of wisdom that came directly from the colonel himself earlier during that same commander’s call. He pointed out the last line of the Airman’s Creed which reads, “I will not fail.” He said something along the lines of, ‘You only fail if you don’t learn something from the mistakes you make. Don’t make the same mistake twice.’

I also learned a few things from the young Airmen on base. During the commander’s call, Col. Wiegand invited his commanders from around base to bring their newest Airmen – straight from basic training and their technical schools. He invited each to the front of the room to tell the rest of us a little about their experiences – what did they learn, what were their favorite parts of the training, etc.

Answers varied from the best moments being ‘BEAST week,’ the coin ceremony, the final graduation run to returning to technical school after having a year off between that and basic training! Everyone learned a different lesson, but they all had similar take-aways. The unity, the feeling of belonging to something bigger than yourself, the feeling of making your family and friends proud – all stood out. It doesn’t matter what mistakes we make or lessons we need to learn, we always have our Air Force family to support us as we make those mistakes and learn those lessons. Here at the 115th Fighter Wing, we are part of something much bigger than ourselves – we are a family, a part of the Air National Guard.

About Tech. Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode

Tech. Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode is a photojournalist for the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wisconsin.