As the debate over a massive generational gap within the military
becomes more prevalent, members within different generational groups
should pause and consider what each contributes to mission success,
rather than what makes one better than the other.
Yes, I am
technically a millennial; however, I am so much more than that and I
do not take pride in being associated with the negative stigmas of
my youth. I am a husband, son and friend. I have faced obstacles and
set-backs unique to only me. I have loved, grieved, failed and
The "Calling All Millennials"
graphic/image was created by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Chip Pons
(U.S. Photo By Senior Airman Charles Pons Abascal)
But first and foremost, I am an American Airman - a
wingman, leader and warrior.
As the next generation
of the Air Force, millennials need to fully embrace the
legacy and heritage that comes with wearing the uniform.
Regardless of age, customs and courtesies go a long way, as
do professionalism, mutual respect and integrity.
Instead of labeling us, teach us. Find ways to use our
strengths to the advantage of the new Air Force.
Multiple generations of Airmen currently make up the United
States Air Force, and much like our varying backgrounds,
religious preferences, sexual orientations and races, our
generational gap should be seen as an asset, not a
There have been articles by several
publications during the past few years criticizing
millennials. A recent article in Military Times stated, “Are
younger service members - so called ‘millennials,' born in
1980 or later – soft? Are they too reliant on technology?
Are they buried so deep in social media that face-to-face
communication becomes impossible? Are they too busy
questioning orders to follow them?” While this excerpt was
used to highlight the plethora of complaints regarding my
generation, as a millennial, it's one of many that I've seen
and I take offense to this thought. I am proud to be
competent with, but never reliant upon technology.
As a photojournalist, I thrive on having the newest
technologies at my fingertips. The quality of my job
performance hinges on it, and as our world races toward more
technological advancements, it is imperative that I stay
up-to-date so that I can continue to evolve with them.
know the difference between indulging in social media and
using it to my advantage.
The way we use the
internet is changing. Statistics can be drawn from following
certain hashtags, trends and posts. Why wouldn't we, as the
world's greatest air, space and cyber space force utilize
various social media platforms to share the Air Force story?
Last year, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James
A. Cody spoke at the Air Force Association Air and Space
Conference and Technology Exposition, and stated that senior
leaders must learn about the younger generation as people,
what they bring to the table and leverage it as though there
were no tomorrow.
“Whatever that next generation is,
they're going to be better than the generation before them,”
Cody said. “We're going to give them better tools; they're
going to come out better – and if they don't, then we have
Growing up, my family instilled in me the
idea that each generation stands upon the shoulders of those
before them. We work as hard as we do and strive for
excellence in all we do so that future generations of Airmen
can serve in a better Air Force.
This work ethic has
been passed down to me by various mentors throughout my
career, and it is something that I, as a millennial, urge my
peers to take seriously.
Only we are responsible for
the reputation that we currently hold. As the Air Force
continues to get smaller as each year passes and recent
changes to the promotion system take effect, showing that we
are more than a stigma is as important as ever. Acknowledge
that there is much to be learned from seasoned generations
of Airmen and use their mentorship to excel your career to
the next level.
While our natural inclination may be
to do things “our” way, recognize that we have an
opportunity, on both sides of the spectrum, to learn from
one another. In doing so, the strength of our Airmen and our
Air Force will be tested and challenged, but we will walk
away stronger than ever.
By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Charles Pons Abascal
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