Airman voices expectations to NCOs

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The halls of the Events Center were filled with the roaring sound created by a room-full of NCOs and Airmen pounding their spoons during a 30-secondstanding ovation that resulted after hearing the passionate words of an unlikely special guest speaker. 

Senior Airman Shaun O'Dell, a member of the 17th Security Forces Squadron, was asked to be the special guest speaker at this year's NCO Academy Dining-In. 

The position of guest speaker, which Airman O'Dell described as an honor, is an opportunity rarely seen or bestowed upon an Airman, especially when the Airman is addressing a room full of his superiors. However it was the perfect setting for what
Airman O'Dell was about to speak about. "I am here to tell you what is expected of you in
combat environments and share some personal experiences," said the Senior Airman, who for 210 days, was part of the group deployed to Camp Bucca, Iraq between June 2005 and January 2006; the same group that experienced first-hand the misfortune of
losing two servicemembers after the detonation of an improvised explosive device, one of those servicemembers being Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Jacobson. 

The room was silent and all eyes were focused on Senior Airman O'Dell after he had stated what he was there to say. 

Airman O'Dell provided accounts of the circumstances of the day Airman Jacobson paid the ultimate price, as well other alarming and misfortunate accounts, which he attributed as a result of lack of leadership. 

But Airman O'Dell was not there to complain or point fingers, he was there to pass on a message intended to make things better by providing suggestions and solutions to the problems and needs he experienced while deployed. Some of the suggestions were short and to the point, while others were more specific, never-the-less all were important. 

The following are some of those suggestions. 

"Please take your pre-deployment training serious," he began. 

"Lead by example. Listen, listen, and listen again to those underneath you. People may have projected ideas that you may have already heard and that you may have projected to those of that are above you. And those ideas they may have been shot down-- but there is that one instance that such ideas could potentially save someone's life, he continued." 

"Please improve your job, whatever it is that you do while you're deployed, improve it. Don't accept the day to day. Make it better for the person that's going to relieve you and do your duties. Please don't complain. As soon as you complain, that opens up a whole
world of opportunities for an Airman to complain about anything. 

"Rehearsals: Everyone knows that practice makes perfect. Make sure you rehearse your plans of attack, both offensive and defensive for any possible situations you may come across," continued Airman O'Dell. 

Also, "Self aid buddy care is vital. It is possibly the best thing that we learned over there to save someone's life, and if you take some time out to learn then you can possibly save someone's life," he added. 

Airman O'Dell continued with emphasis on the concept of teamwork. 

"The biggest thing you can do is practice teamwork. Do things that you can do as leader with your subordinates. Things like checking each other's equipment. Don't just take an Airman's word that he or she may have all their items. Make sure to check their communication, their ammunition, water and check their vehicles too," said Airman O'Dell. 

Senior Airman O'Dell closed his speech with the following words which included part of the second inaugural speech of President Abraham Lincoln. 

"'With malice towards none--charity for all. With firmness and the right as God gives us to see the right. Let us strive on to finish the work we are in. To bind up our nation's wounds. To care for him, who should have bore the battle and for his widow and his orphan. To do all which may achieve a lasting peace amongst ourselves and all nations.' 

"Pres. Lincoln tackled many problems as the leader of our nation in a time of war as does Honorable George Bush today. They do not accomplish such tasks alone. It is you that make things happen on the ground," he continued. 

As God gives us to see the right, are you willing to overcome your fears and know that you do not have to look back to see if I follow? Because I'll be there. 

Let us strive to continue to finish the work that we are in. 

Can you contribute the extra hours to ensure that I am prepared and safe? 

He went on to say, "We all have the opportunity to bind our nation's wounds, but those that defend this country are few. I am one that chose to wear this uniform, and I need
you to guide me-- to pick me up when I 'm down, to ensure I'm there to finish the job. I am here to follow you on to the battlefield. 

Are you willing to lead?" 

But his closing statement made the strongest impact... 

"Now each time you travel through this south gate, the main gate, our Jacobson Gate. Please remember her as she made the ultimate sacrifice. So I ask you once again-- Are you ready to lead?"