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Why I bought the new Airman Battle Uniform

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- I recently purchased and started wearing the new Airman Battle Uniform. You may be thinking, "So ... why is that such a big deal? We all have to get it sooner or later, right?"

Well, in my case, I don't. I retire this summer after more than 25 years of service.

So, why did I buy the new uniform? Regardless of the time I have left in, I want to be part of our new Air Force: an Air Force that not only continues to proudly stand as the sword and shield of our nation's strategic deterrence, but the new expeditionary Air Force that has our young men and women routinely deploying into harm's way throughout the world.

I recently had the honor and privilege of participating in a ceremony to present a Bronze Star Medal to Tech. Sgt. Marshall McBride, an ICBM maintenance technician.

As I prepared for the ceremony, I realized that I knew very little about the medal. So I did my homework.

The Bronze Star Medal was conceived in 1943 by Army Col. "Red" Reeder to create a "Ground Medal" and only award it to infantrymen.

Initially, Colonel Reeder had a hard time getting anyone to support his concept. It wasn't until the proposal was seen by Army Gen. George C. Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff, that Colonel Reeder finally found his support.

General Marshall told his staff, "It's a medal for those that suffer the heaviest losses and endure the greatest hardships."

As I researched the history, award criteria, and the specifics of Sergeant McBride's medal, I learned that this was the first time that someone with an ICBM maintenance Air Force Specialty Code had earned it.

Sergeant McBride earned his Bronze Star Medal while serving a one-year tour as an interrogator in Iraq. His citation states how the information he provided directly saved the lives of countless Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines serving overseas.

Reading his citation made me wonder how many Airmen in other AFSCs have earned this level of recognition. Just think, one day you are serving your country by supporting the world's most powerful weapon system, then the next day you may be serving your country in one of the world's most dangerous places.

This is the Air Force I want to proudly represent while wearing the new ABU. Even the name symbolizes our changing roles and missions as Airmen warriors.

Our fight is where our country needs us: either on the snow-covered, wind-swept plains of Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, North Dakota or Montana; or the improvised explosive device laden roads of Iraq or Afghanistan.

And where our young Air Force men and women are, the ABU is the uniform they will be wearing into battle. As I continue to serve until my retirement, I can think of no better way to honor the service, sacrifice and dedication of our Airmen fighting the Global War on Terror than proudly wearing the new ABU.