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"Cross into the Blue"

BOLLING AFB, D.C. -- You may see this phrase as one part of a U.S. Air Force advertising campaign, but it's much more than that. It applies to all Airmen: active duty, Guard and Reserve, and is a state of mind.

The Air Force is not just another job; it's a profession and a way of life. Whether you give four years or make it a career, only you can decide whether you're just getting paid by the Air Force or if you have "crossed into the blue."

As military members, we're held to the highest standards. We're expected to be mature, productive members of society, to make sound decisions and live by our core values.

The core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do are much more than minimum standards and act as a measuring stick for determining if you've "crossed into the blue." They remind us what it takes to get the mission done. They inspire us to do our very best at all times.

Have you adapted to the Air Force lifestyle? From basic training to technical school, to the follow-on training provided at the first duty assignment, a large portion of that training is adapting to what is expected of us as professional Airmen. Some of us begin by losing simple habits that don't reflect well on you as a professional, such as saying, "Yes, Sir" and "No, Ma'am" instead of "Yea" and "Naw."

Personnel who have figured it out and "crossed into the blue" don't spend hours reading between the lines of Air Force Instruction 36-2903 to justify how they can have red streaks dyed into their hair, get outrageous body piercings and/or tattoos and make up their own uniform combinations just because it doesn't SPECIFICALLY state that we can't do that.

Is this state of mind a one-time good deal? "Once you've crossed into the blue you never have to think about it again," couldn't be further from the truth. At what point did the personnel who caused the Air Force to have a "black eye" with the public and our elected officials forget about crossing into the blue? Being in the Air Force and defending your country is an honor and a privilege, not a right, and Air Force core values should provide us with all we need to do "gut checks" to ensure we have "crossed into the blue" - and remain there.

It doesn't matter what your rank is. You continually demonstrate your professionalism and spirit every day. You make our Air Force tick. You turn the wheel. The decisions you make every day have a much more dramatic impact than you may realize. You have the power to make things happen. We're not in the business of hiring people just for the heck of it. We hire people to perform every one of our missions because that's the only way the mission is going to get accomplished -- with you.

What is it that recharges your batteries and "re-blue's" you? Being selected for promotion or maybe watching as your friends were selected but you weren't? Being selected for that dream assignment? You want to get charged up, attend a basic military training graduation at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, on any Friday morning, and watch our newest Airmen come down the "bomb run" and listen intently as they are sworn in,en masse. If that doesn't stir your pride as a professional Airman in the greatest Air Force on the planet, nothing will. I was especially recharged when one of the new Airmen I was watching, in March 2006, was my son.

I am set to retire this month with more than 25 years in uniform. As you go through the lengthy process of getting everything done, you hope you're too busy to think that soon you won't be getting up every morning, putting on a uniform to serve your country and going to work. I will tell you, that is a "big deal."

This is one Airman who will prove that "crossing into the blue" continues on into retirement. Since my wife and son will still be serving, I intend to put on my uniform and attend functions as often as possible. There will also be one more home in San Antonio, Texas, flying the American and Air Force flags.

I'm not saying that anyone needs a wake-up call or that you have ever left "the blue," but it's nice to get a reminder every now and then of why we have chosen this profession.

Make the choice to always "cross into the blue." Set the example for your peers and co-workers. Everyone is watching.

I would like to leave you, with a couple anonymous sayings that deal with the person you want others to see in you and a reminder why you have to be on your game at all times:

- When you thought I wasn't looking, I LOOKED, and wanted to say thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn't looking.

- Children seldom misquote you. In fact, they usually repeat word for word what you shouldn't have said.

- How do you want to be thought of?

When you excel in your job and develop yourself as a professional Airman, the Air Force team is better for it. Remember, only you can decide whether you're just getting paid by the Air Force, or if you have "crossed into the blue."