The warrior within: Academy leader, pararescueman discusses the importance of cadets fostering a warrior ethos

  • Published
  • By Amber Baillie
  • Academy Spirit staff writer
Being an Air Force warrior is second nature to Chief Master Sgt. Jeremy Hardy, the superintendent for the Commandant of Cadets here and a career pararescueman.

In fact, Hardy has served for more than 20 years in combat search and rescue operations with a warrior spirit, surviving motorcycle and Humvee crashes and risky parachute and scuba dives to reach wounded airmen. He's watched allies, enemies and buddies perish in his arms.

After 28 years in the Air Force, Hardy is still passionate about instilling a sense of warrior ethos in Academy cadets -- future officers who will one day lead Airmen on the battlefield.

"We are a nation at war," he said. "The Air Force mission is to fly, fight and win. Cadets need to remember they are members of the armed services and our mission is to take the fight to the enemy."

Hardy said to develop a warrior ethos, Airmen must execute a warrior pathos, meaning they have to talk like a warrior, act like a warrior and present themselves as a warrior.

"In doing so, they will adopt the ethos of a warrior," he said. "I think it takes years of dedicated service to this country to fully instill a warrior ethos. I can't tell you a specific moment when I developed a warrior ethos, but I will say I probably have it more engrained in my soul than most people because of my experiences."

Hardy was 14 years old when he decided he wanted to be a pararescue NCO. In 1983 while a part of a Civil Air Patrol program, Hardy attended a pararescue orientation camp where he met Tech. Sgt. Scotty Gearen, who deeply inspired him. Gearen was a part of the pararescue career field and had survived a 3,000 foot parachute fall. Hardy said from then on he knew U.S. Air Force pararescue was his calling.

"It took me 28 years to become a chief, but I did it," he said. "When I joined this volunteer-only career field, I knew what I was getting into and that I was going to war."

Lt. Gen. David Goldfein, the Combined Forces Air Component commander stationed in Qatar, was one of the officers Hardy saved as a pararescueman. Goldfein is a Class of 1983 Academy graduate and presided over Hardy's chief master sergeant promotion ceremony.

"There was a team of dedicated, enlisted officers who lived by that warrior ethos, came together in the worst case scenario, went into really hostile territory and pulled Goldfein out when he was shot down," Hardy said. "All three co-pilots on the team were lieutenants. They had a warrior ethos, were trained and went in and saved Goldfein's life. To cadets who say, 'I'm just a lieutenant,' that's not true -- they're a warrior and an Airman. I think that's a powerful message all cadets here need to understand."

Hardy has deployed around the world and lost 23 friends during his pararescue career.

"Some of those men did not have to die," he said. "They died because of a lack of leadership and I attribute that to a lack of how they were trained as young officers. What better way to affect that change than to help General Lengyel, the Academy's commandant of cadets, with his vision to re-instill the warrior ethos in these cadets and remind them the day they raised their hands they became Airmen?"

There isn't a specific definition of warrior ethos other than complete and total readiness to act, Hardy said.

"The core values at the Academy are unequivocally the foundation of a warrior ethos," he said. "You add to that, love for your brothers and sisters in arms and the desire to volunteer for anything because it's the right thing to do. We call it 'mission hacking' in my community. You say, 'I want the next mission so please send me on the next mission.' I think humility is a huge aspect of the warrior ethos."

Cadets should be reminded of warrior ethos in phases, in the same way leaders introduce cadets to the use of arms during Basic Cadet Training, Hardy said.

"Academy staff can assist with the concept by maintaining their warrior pathos," he said. "If you take a look at my office, it's a museum of war paraphernalia including helmets and shell casings. When a cadet or young staff member walks in, it's a visual reminder that this war isn't over."

The novel "Gates of Fire", by Steven Pressfield, recounting the Battle of Thermopylae, and the movie "300", are great representations of the warrior ethos concept, Hardy said.

"They encapsulate the warrior ethos in regards to the mission coming first and that small numbers can defeat large numbers based on hard determination and drive," he said. "Here at the Academy, cadets need to understand that upon their commissioning, their job will be to be lead Airmen on the battlefield. We're in an irregular war that isn't going to end any time soon. We must go into battle shoulder to shoulder, put our shields up, grip our spears and be ready to attack together as a team. That mentality transcends all aspects of our life."