Air Force Clubs: tradition or distant memory?

Peterson Air Force Base -- Are you a member of "your" officer or enlisted club? For those of you who are, join me in explaining to your fellow Airmen the importance of being a member of "their" Air Force club.

Invite them, perhaps persuade them, to join during our ongoing Air Force Space Command Commanders' Challenge. Help them understand the personal and professional value of becoming a club member.

Throughout Air Force history, our clubs have been instrumental in maintaining esprit de corps through military tradition ... promotions and pinning-on ceremonies, dinings-in and dinings-out, Air Force Balls, and various award ceremonies and banquets have been made possible through our Air Force clubs.

They have been the center of our community celebrations. Holiday parties, brunches and special events have brought our families and friends together through the years -- contributing in great part to our sense of community.

Historically, our clubs have also been the best place for Airmen to come together and unwind while off-duty.

In the past, as we often hear today, we were expected to work hard and play hard. Much of that "playing hard" was carried out in our Air Force clubs.

The clubs were places young troops listened to old war stories that somehow made their senior leadership seem more human and approachable. By being more approachable, senior leadership gained a deeper appreciation of what was important to their young troops.

The young troops learned club traditions -- rites of passage -- that contributed to their sense of camaraderie, bonding them to their fellow Airmen and to the Air Force as an institution.

In essence, using today's terminology, we were all engaged in informal two-way mentoring, and I for one learned a great deal during these mentoring sessions.

Since the de-glamorization of alcohol, many of you may say times have changed and so has our society. It hasn't changed as much as you might believe. Air Force leadership will still tell you they expect you to work hard and play hard, but the difference today is they'll also tell you they expect you to be safe.

People still like to have a good time, and some even like to go out and have a drink or two. So why do so few of you choose to do so in your clubs?

I've heard some say it's because they're concerned senior leadership will somehow look with disapproval on their behavior.

As a part of this command's senior leadership team, I will tell you this can't be further from the truth. I'd ask you to remember when we were young Airmen, the clubs were the only places to be on a Friday night -- the hot spots.

If the only reason we went to our clubs was for food or a drink, we could have just as soon gone downtown, but what kind of bonding or connectivity would we have forged with our fellow patrons? With that in mind, you should realize we look forward to seeing you in the clubs, and hope to see you enjoying the same bonding, camaraderie and mentoring we experienced.

As leaders, our only concern is that you do so safely. I can think of no better place to be safe than in our clubs, where our fellow Airmen can take care of their own.

If you don't go to the clubs because they don't provide the food, atmosphere or entertainment you're looking for, then I ask why you haven't taken the time to make them "your" clubs? Whether you want different music or a less stuffy atmosphere, you need only tell your club management what you want in your clubs. You'll find they are ready and willing to make the changes needed to bring you back.

Come to the next club advisory council meeting -- or better yet -- drop by on a Friday night and tell management what you want in "your" clubs.

Our clubs have always been a vital part of Air Force life and are rich in tradition and heritage, but without our continued membership support they may someday become only a distant memory of our past.

Who will host our future family holiday gatherings and special events? Where will we go to gather and honor our best and brightest? And where will we join our fellow Airmen to bond together through our common experiences? Our clubs need support from each of us to make sure they are there for those who follow. I truly believe all of us have a professional responsibility to support the institutions we have inherited.

Whether you're an officer or enlisted member they are "your" clubs. For those of you who are members, I thank you for contributing to our tradition. For those who are not, I ask you to step up, join "your" club today!