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NEWS | March 15, 2017

Why I serve

By Chief Master Sgt. Todd Cole 628th Air Base Wing command chief

I recently surpassed 28 years of military service and I'm often asked, "What has kept you in the service this long?" or "Why do you continue to serve?"  I've pondered these questions on numerous occasions and my response often revolves around the annual Personal Statement of Military Compensation we all receive on myPay.  This statement outlines the total value of our military pay, allowances and benefits.  Some compensation is easily captured in exact dollar values such as basic pay, Basic Allowance for Housing and Basic Allowance for Subsistence.  Other compensation such as medical care and federal tax advantages is service estimated for us.  Finally, the statement lists additional considerations of indirect compensation such as the commissary, exchange, counseling and dental. The value is based on what a service member thinks its worth.

While I've seen a significant increase in my military pay and allowances since the days I entered the service and my basic pay was $646 dollars a month, pay and allowances are not my reasons for continued service.

My responses are based on what the Statement of Military Compensation doesn't address. The real reasons I continue to serve are categorized as intangibles; qualities or attributes I can't put a dollar value to.  Let me explain.

How do I put a value to the level of trust and responsibility the Air Force has placed upon me?  I entered the service as “open mechanical” at the age of 19.  I assumed the Air Force would teach me to work on airplanes; I would do my four years of service and then get out. During basic training, I was given the opportunity to volunteer to be an Inflight Refueling Specialist (aka Boom Operator).  I was trained to refuel other aircraft inflight.  Assigned to a flight crew consisting of three officers and myself, it was my responsibility to ensure a receiver airplane received fuel from our aircraft safely. Those three officers (and the receiver aircrew) relied on me to safely bring them home after each mission even under the most demanding conditions such as at night, in bad weather, turbulence or worse, all three at the same time! What an awesome and humbling responsibility trusted to me.

How do I put a value to the amazing opportunities I've had to travel the world, to see and experience things many people only dream of?  It is priceless to me to be able to take part in missions, make decisions and solve problems which contribute each day to the defense of our great nation, knowing I'm making a difference in the lives of future generations of Americans.

How do I put a value to the incredible people I've been able to meet, serve, work with and develop life-long friendships?  I’ve worked with extremely diverse and talented people who inspire me to do better. They live by the same core values as I and are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. Some already have.  These people are so dedicated to a common cause they truly live the values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.

How do I put a value to the impact I hope I’ve had on the lives of people I'm responsible for, cared for, lead, developed, mentored and followed in my role as Chief Master Sergeant and as a Command Chief? Just like my experiences as a boom operator protecting my crew and delivering fuel to the fight, the opportunities to make positive and meaningful impacts on the lives of thousands of people at Joint Base Charleston is just as awesome and humbling.

My list of intangibles could continue on and on.  I hope my thoughts will encourage others to contemplate and reflect on their own intangibles and why they continue to serve.  I would just like to say, “Thank you.” Your amazing professionalism and dedication inspire me to continuing to serve. I salute you!