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Opportunity, meaning, extraordinary people

By Col. Clint ZumBrunnen | 437th Airlift Wing | July 27, 2018

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —

My family and I are thrilled to be back in the Lowcountry as part of the 437th Airlift Wing.

As a way of introducing myself to those reading this, I think it is helpful to reflect on what first attracted me to the Air Force and explain why I have stayed on active duty for more than 20 years. I hope my reasoning will resonate with a majority.

Like many, I came into the Air Force for the opportunity to be around airplanes and be a part of a great institution. I grew up on a remote cattle ranch in eastern Wyoming, about a mile from a point on a low-level training route used by Air Force aircraft. As a teenager driving a tractor in an open field, I would often feel the rumble of B-52s, B-1s, C-130s and the occasional 4-ship of F-16s as they entered the route at 500 feet. I still remember wanting to trade places with those crews. When it became clear the Air Force Academy might present an opportunity for me to get involved in aviation, my parents gave the green light and encouraged the idea. I went for it and have never looked back.

While I entered the Air Force to be around airplanes and be a part of something great, I quickly came to appreciate both the importance of the Air Force’s mission endowed by our nation and the incredible caliber of people who work to accomplish it. As what we do is meaningful, not only to me, but also to the public we serve, mothers and fathers continue to entrust us with their children and believe we will do our best to take care of them. We are not perfect by any stretch, but I believe the Air Force continues to be held in high regard because we strive to maintain that trust. I stay, in part, because I find meaning in continuing to play a role in preserving this great institution and all it represents.

I have grown to love the Air Force, though, because 10 assignments have shown me and my family there are extraordinary people in it everywhere. What we have found here in the first two weeks is as amazing as any place we have ever been. 

I joined for the opportunity to operate airplanes and be a part of something meaningful. I have stayed for 20-plus years, hands down, because of the people—smart, resourceful, honest, long-suffering and often fearless patriots. When it comes time to do something else, it is them I will miss the most.