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Quiet Professionals: Our Ethos or our Mantra?

Lt. Col. Jason Allen is the commander of the 15th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla. Allen is in charge of one of the nine flying squadrons within the 1st Special Operations Wing. The squadron flies the MC-130H Combat Talon II, specially modified to support unconventional warfare and special operations forces worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kai White)

Lt. Col. Jason Allen is the commander of the 15th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla. Allen is in charge of one of the nine flying squadrons within the 1st Special Operations Wing. The squadron flies the MC-130H Combat Talon II, specially modified to support unconventional warfare and special operations forces worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kai White)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Air Commandos are familiar with the term “Quiet Professional.” We see it referenced in briefings, on documents, and refer to ourselves as such. Personally, I use the term routinely and consider the men and women with the 15th Special Operations Squadron to be the very embodiment of “Quiet Professionals.” But what makes a “Quiet Professional?” Is it part of our ethos or just a catchy mantra?

I decided to take a minute to investigate what a “Quiet Professional” is and how to define it. Like any good researcher, I asked Google: “What does it mean to be a Quiet Professional?” Of 3.42 million results, none provided a consistent answer or one fitting of an Air Commando. So I turned to experience, my fellow special operation forces brothers and sisters, and took some time to observe my team in action. I came up with three key traits: humility, credibility and professionalism.

Let me begin with humility. I recently read the commentaries published by Lt. Gen. Bradley A. Heithold, the commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, and the director of the FBI, Mr. James Comey, as they shared their thoughts on the subject.

“[Humility is] a quiet confidence without the need to loudly proclaim our individual accomplishments,” said Lt. Gen. Heithold. “This is part of our heritage and culture that makes an Air Commando synonymous with the term Quiet Professional.”

An Air Commando is not here for personal recognition or gain. Instead, they answer a higher calling (team, family, spiritual, etc…). This does not mean, however, that an Air Commando should be silent. An Air Commando is justly proud of their many accomplishments and shares “there I was stories” with their team.

In addition, he or she learns our history and mentors those who will carry our legacy forward. They have each other’s backs’ and practice good operational security (OPSEC), because they know we must protect our teammates and families from the very real threats we fight on a daily basis.

An Air Commando must be credible. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “credibility” is the quality of being believed or accepted as true, real or honest. We work our entire career to continually build our experience and increase our knowledge for the purpose of building our credibility and capability. Our joint partners demand us to be credible, to be the most capable Airmen in the world. In short, it takes years to build credibility, and yet, a single thoughtless action can destroy it.

Finally, “Quiet Professionals” are professional. Is this redundant? I don’t think so. Professional is not a title you receive when you drive through the front gate of your base, nor is it synonymous with credibility. Being a professional requires dedication and hard work, encompassing several key skills. A professional is objective, observant, a problem-solver, innovative, experienced, knowledgeable and compassionate among others. The professional stays engaged, knows our history, is proud, remains current and qualified, is driven to succeed and adheres to our Core Values.

I see these traits in our Air Commandos every day. It is part of our ethos. What do you think? Are you a “Quiet Professional,” and is it a part of your ethos – or merely a mantra?