Not just another “danke schön”

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Michele Rollins
  • 49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Airmen of any rank are expected to exhibit the good order and discipline learned in basic training and through their Air Force careers.

In today's joint environment, Airmen receive opportunities to work with Soldiers, Sailors and Marines from around the world. The same respect displayed for U.S. Air Force officers is expected to be displayed for our sister services. One overlooked group to whom we should extend this practice is our foreign officers.

It's up to Airmen to set the example of displaying respect toward the officers of other nations. Holloman is the home to not only the 49th Fighter Wing but also 23 detachments, including the German air force Flying Training Center.

As members of Team Holloman since 1992, our German counterparts should be treated with the same respect American Airmen receive. The easiest and most natural way of displaying respect is by exhibiting the age-old tradition of the salute.

Some Airmen say that they don't know how to read the German ranks.

Growing up in the ranks of the U.S. military, we are accustomed to the U.S. insignias. Just take a look at others in your office. Can you easily distinguish an enlisted member from an officer?

Granted, the enlisted insignia is different in each service but with a little research, you can learn to identify the Army sergeant first class's rank. The same is true with the rank of the German airmen.

The rank looks a little different, said Paul Smith, 49th FW support agreement program specialist. To help, there were posters made when the detachment first came.

Don't know where to find a poster? Ask your friendly Public Affairs Office! The office has the information available to make you successful.

Some Airmen say that they don't need to salute German officers -- they're American Airmen, after all!

If you saw a Marine general walking down the street, would you ignore him? Of course you wouldn't! If you flip through AFI 36-2203, Drill and Ceremonies, you'll find the following written under paragraph 3.6.1: "Outdoors, salutes are exchanged upon recognition between officers and warrant officers and between officers or warrant officers and cadets or enlisted members of the armed forces."

What does that have to do with saluting German officers? Read further down the paragraph and you'll find the following: "Also, use these procedures when greeting an officer of a friendly foreign nation."

So, what's the bottom line?

"Saluting international officers falls under Air Force rules, no matter what branch," said Staff Sgt. Sheri Burgess, Holloman Airman Leadership School instructor. "It's also a matter of respect that we should pay to all officers whether they are American, Canadian, German or any other friendly nation. It goes along with their job requirements and title -- they've earned it. They serve to honor their country, just the same as our officers honor their country."

Some Airmen say that the German officers don't salute back -- why bother?

Read the last point again if you need a reminder, but showing respect is not just about following a rule listed in one of numerous instructions.

As a member of the Air Force, you are held in high esteem and are a great contributor to American society, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. You are a steward of this country -- be proud of it! Every day, we are working to make our community a great place to live.

We can only affect what we control. Change doesn't occur overnight and it's not easy. It begins with one person adjusting one action. Be that person and take the time to make this one change. Make our German friends feel welcome. They fight next to us everyday and deserve the respect that we have also earned as Airmen.

Today's joint environment allows us to work side-by-side with not only some of the most respected members of the U.S. but also some of the finest in the world. The work we do as Airmen garner an insurmountable amount of respect.

Take the time to salute your local German officers and remind them that they are a valuable component of today's fight without having to learn "danke schön," or thank you. The German air force has earned the same respect and has become an important component of Team Holloman.