‘Why do I continue to serve?’



Commentary by Capt. Theresa Determan
Squadron Officer School


2/15/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- When you think of the words "Airman" and "warrior," do they resonate with you?

On Feb. 27, Squadron Officer School will showcase two wounded warriors that embody the terms "Airman" and "warrior," in an effort to persuade company-grade officers that these terms are not just buzzwords.

SOS presents Warrior Symposium as a capstone event, designed to provide insight and intellectual stimulation from military or community leaders past and present.

This year two Airmen will speak about their combat experiences.

Colonel Tony Millican and Tech. Sgt. Israel Del Toro will provide unique perspectives on resiliency and why they continue to serve the U.S. Air Force.

SOS class 13B, the 30th Student Squadron Knights, selected the theme "Why do I continue to serve?" The objective of the symposium is to encourage personal introspection at a poignant time in a company grade officer's career, four to seven years of military service.

Many SOS students contemplate the continued desire to serve against a career move into the civilian sector. For 13B's symposium, both speakers made deliberate choices to continue to wear the U.S. Air Force uniform despite being confronted with challenging situations.

Millican and Del Toro are wounded warriors who are currently serving on active duty. They both have stories that exemplify the words "Airman" and "warrior" while showcasing the resiliency of the Airman warrior spirit.

Millican is a services officer who survived a Taliban suicide vehicle improvised explosive device attack. After sustaining head trauma and hearing loss, he maintained his warrior ethos and commanded post-attack operations.

Del Toro is a joint terminal attack controller, wounded by an improvised explosive device, leaving him with third-degree burns over 80 percent of his body. He fought for four years to become the first 100 percent disabled Airman on active duty. Both Airmen will present their life stories to help students understand the question posed by the theme.

Two days after attending the symposium, students will graduate and return to their bases, many to larger leadership roles in our Air Force. The SOS experience coupled with this Warrior Symposium theme may provide an enduring legacy upon which each officer can rely as they lead Airmen and answer the question, "Why do I continue to serve?"