Falcon Heritage Forum: 'Courage is fear that has said its prayers'

  • Published
  • By Amber Baillie
  • Academy Spirit staff writer
A group of 20 company grade officers spoke to approximately 4,000 cadets Sept. 20-21 at the 16th-annual Falcon Heritage Forum on the importance of moral courage in the midst of difficult decisions in the active-duty Air Force.

The forum titled, "Faces of Courage: Company Grade Officers in Action" featured ROTC, Academy and Officer Training School graduates.

Officers interacted with cadets during panel sessions, a meet and greet, squadron hosted dinners, Military Operations in Urban Terrain training and Leadership Reaction Course training.

"It is was a great opportunity for cadets to interact with young company grade officers who aren't much further ahead of them and where cadets could get a perspective on what these officers deal with on a day to day basis," said Cadet 1st Class Nicholas Espinoza, Cadet Wing character officer. "Having the courage to make hard decisions is not only evident on the battlefield, but off it as well. There is a moral courage that comes with every decision we make, and we wanted to bring the Cadet Wing into that conversation of what it means to have moral courage. We wanted this forum to energize, enlighten and equip cadets."

Panel sessions took place in Arnold and Fairchild Hall and were mandatory for the Cadet Wing. Sessions held in Arnold Hall were open to the public.

Capt. O. Samantha Dickens, the forum director, said this year's forum focused on company grade officers with recent deployments and highlighted a wide range of career fields, including intelligence, piloting, combat rescue, explosive ordinance, logistics, security forces, communication, special investigations, Army infantry and Army Ranger.

"In today's military, especially since 9/11, we find that company grade officers are doing extraordinary things," Dickens said. "We wanted the cadets to recognize and understand the challenges of being a company grade officer in today's military by bringing in veterans who have been challenged by recent circumstances as well as help them realize that the courage they develop throughout their years at the Academy will serve them well in the active duty Air Force."

Capt. Barry F. Crawford, assigned to the Maryland Air National Guard's 104th Fighter Squadron and attending specialized undergraduate pilot training at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss., told cadets once they become officers, to never ask anyone they work with or their subordinates to do anything they wouldn't do first or can't do themselves.

"You should live by that motto," Crawford said. "Be the best you can be, lead from the front, take care of the guys underneath you and they will take care of you."

Capt. Nicholas Morgans, a combat rescue officer at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. and 2005 Academy graduate, told cadets to believe in what they're doing when they become officers.

"Whether you're a maintenance officer, a special investigations agent or a combat rescue officer, you've got to really buy in and get your Airmen to buy into what you're doing," Morgans said. "Believe in the mission and give it all you got."

Morgans said cadets should keep a good attitude while at the Academy and take advantage of the unique opportunities here.

"Cynicism is like a plague, and it spreads rapidly," Morgans said. "It's not only detrimental to your wing but also your unit. If an Airman has a bad attitude, it will spread like wildfire and the next thing you know, you will have a bunch of lazy Airmen."

Morgans said the worst thing you can do as a leader is to not do anything at all.

"You've got to get to your men and lead," Morgans said. "Sometimes you have to lead from the front, the middle and even the back, but bottom line, you're there for your men."

Capt. Tasha Vick, the operations program and analysis officer to the Office of Special Investigations at Peterson Air Force Base, said leadership can sometimes be a thankless job.

"If you're a good leader, then your subordinates don't usually realize it because everything runs smoothly and great," Vick said. "When you have a bad leader, it's miserable and everybody wants to quit. It's not until you experience that bad leader you find out that you can learn just as much from a bad leader as a good leader."

Morgans said the culminating moment of his career was during his first deployment when he was tasked to search for and transport a deceased soldier.

"We draped a flag over the hero, and on our way back home in the helicopter, with the hero in the middle of us, the sun started to come up in Afghanistan over the Red Desert and it was then when it all made sense," Morgans said. "I thought, 'This is what I'm meant to do, this is my team who worked for seven hours saving lives' and searching for this guy. For the first time in my life, I had an experience of realization and understanding of what I was put on this Earth to do. It's edged in my memory and is something I will never forget."

Capt. Michael Nishimura, a Royal Thai Air Force logistics exchange officer at Don Muang Air Force Base, Thailand, said the difference between moral and physical courage is that moral courage requires you to put yourself forward and persecute through any situation.

"From my experience being in Afghanistan and Iraq, physical courage was about being there, doing your job on a regular basis and running convoys," Nishimura said. "Moral courage is about keeping your head on straight and taking care of your teammates. We had some tough situations in Afghanistan including a (roadside bomb) as well as some potential ambushes, but were able to avoid them."

Capt. Marci Dalton, a C-130J instructor pilot and flight commander at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, said she finds comfort in a quote by Dorothy Bernard when put in a fearful situation.

"For me, the quote that comes to mind is, 'Courage is fear that has said its prayers,'" Dalton said. "It has gotten me through my six-plus years of flying. There may be times when you're freaked out: I know for me learning how to fly when I hadn't had any experience prior to pilot training was something I was afraid of because I feared the unknown. All sorts of fears run through your brain but you have to find a way to conquer yourself."

Cadet 1st Class Ian Pryce said he was glad to hear CGOs speak this year.

"It's nice to hear the perspective from someone who has been where we're about to go and have recent experience with it," Pryce said. "It was also nice to get the OSI perspective because they experience a different side of the Air Force."

Cadet 4th Class Luke Brantley said he enjoyed hearing about the trying situations officers have overcome.

"I liked that some of them were Academy graduates. Especially as a four-degree now, it's hard to imagine being in those situations," Brantley said. "To hear an example of someone who has made it through such turmoil is really inspiring."

Cadet 4th Class Brendan Mallory said he thinks the forum benefited cadets as well as the CGOs.

"I think this was good for both parties," Mallory said. "The officers probably liked coming back and seeing where they were nine years ago, and it's cool for us to see where we might be in nine years."