Being a good neighbor takes getting involved with the community

SHRIEVER AFB, Colo. -- Throughout the history of the Air Force, the concept of community involvement has been the key to the successful working relationships enjoyed by the men and women who serve at military installations and the communities around the world that support them.

Today, more than ever, it is crucial that Airmen continue to make every effort to be visible in our communities. The benefits to both the community and the individual are immeasurable, and serve to strengthen what is already a winning combination.

As members of the armed forces, is it incumbent upon each of us to integrate ourselves into the local area and return the support offered so freely by the surrounding communities. Whether it is participating in a local clean-up effort, speaking at a school assembly or simply volunteering time at a local food pantry; these activities provide a forum for Airmen to interact with non-military citizens of the community on a personal level.

During activities such as these, information and ideas are freely exchanged, giving the sometimes formidable visage of the military a more personal, approachable appearance. We do, after all, live, work and play together. When it snows, we all get cold. When traffic is slow, we are all a little late. It is important to appreciate this and have a sense of solidarity with the local community.

Being in the military, we have a unique opportunity to be the public face of the military each time we participate in community activities. Doing so is a responsibility we should all take seriously.

Citizens attending or participating in these events observe our behavior and attitude and attribute them to the military as a whole. Therefore, it is up to us to embody all the positive attributes the public has come to expect from military members such as selflessness, dignity and courtesy.

In some cases, people will be meeting a military member for the first time, and others, through past experience, will have preconceived notions of what to expect. Either way, the impression we make will undoubtedly have a lasting effect.

Communities benefit greatly from our active participation, but there are personal benefits as well. As Airmen, we should be compelled to strengthen our understanding of all cultures, especially ones in which we live, and there is no better way to accomplish this than to roll up our sleeves and pitch in.

Additionally, volunteerism and commitment to community are attributes that each of us need to cultivate, not only personally, but professionally as well. The future of the military depends on maintaining good relations with the public, and it is expected that each of us pull our weight.

Certainly, there are few activities that enrich one's life as much as selflessly lending a hand for the greater good, and doing so is vital for the professional development and personal growth expected of today's military personnel.

For the military, the importance of maintaining strong ties to the community cannot be overstated, and all future Airmen are counting on us to continue the great tradition of community involvement that our predecessors worked so hard to establish. So get out there and get active in your community. You'll be glad you did.