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We’re more than just ‘bodies,’ we’re Airmen

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David B. Novy
  • 375th Civil Engineer Squadron commander
"Words have meaning and names have power." - Unknown

Usually out of expediency, you'll hear someone refer to required manpower as "bodies." Whether it is additional personnel required to complete a task on time, augmentees to support a special event, or a reference to resource reductions that affected almost every Air Force unit, the phrase "I don't have the bodies" is a frequent complaint.

But that complaint is surprisingly inarticulate and fails to identify the value of each individual, their background and training, the impact they have on our global mission, or the potential they represent. We're not talking about "bodies" when we say we need more people, we're talking about Airmen.

A sergeant major levying perimeter defense position augmentee taskings at a base in Afghanistan made that point for me a few years ago. When units from across the installation complained they didn't have the "bodies" to support the required end strength, he slammed his fist on the table declaring "We're not talking about bodies ... these are Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines. If you just think of them as "bodies," then it's more likely that's what they will become."

He had a point.

The co-worker who has your back on a job site, pushes you to a personal best on your PT test, or volunteers to be the designated driver isn't a "body"--he's a Wingman. The first responder arriving on an accident scene isn't a "body"--she's a medic, a firefighter, or a defender. The seasoned veteran giving you the benefit of his experience isn't a "body"--he's a mentor. Above all, though, we're Airmen.

We juggle resources on a daily basis. Across the installation we've seen the impacts of sequestration and furloughs and the limits imposed by those cuts on our ability to execute the mission.

If nothing else, we've seen firsthand the impact of each and every individual on our installation and it has proven we are all far more than just "bodies." When referring to our civilian and military colleagues, we should use the word that best describes their impact, their training, and their potential, rather than a shorthand reference: we're Airmen.