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What does Air Power mean to you?

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Tech. Sgt.  Samantha Webb, 48th Security Forces Squadron flight chief, prepares to go on patrol at the 48th SFS headquarters building, Jan. 18, 2011.  Webb has been in the Air Force for 11 years, stationed at RAF Lakenheath since August 2008 and has deployed five times.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Connor Estes)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Tech. Sgt. Samantha Webb, 48th Security Forces Squadron flight chief, prepares to go on patrol at the 48th SFS headquarters building, Jan. 18, 2011. Webb has been in the Air Force for 11 years, stationed at RAF Lakenheath since August 2008 and has deployed five times. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Connor Estes)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- For a large majority of Airmen, their hard work and dedication is evident every duty day.

A wrench turned is an engine fixed; a meal cooked and served is a happy Airman at a dining facility, an individual medically cleared for deployment is one more able-bodied war fighter contributing to a mission downrange.

Most Airmen get a sense of accomplishment at the end of their day. But for most security forces defenders it doesn't come that easy. If nothing has happened at the end of the day then we have done our jobs.

Sometimes that is a hard reality to face. I see the discouraged looks from my Airmen when, after a few months of attending basic training and technical school, they are thrust into the "real Air Force" and faced with the hard reality that our job is twenty years of absolute boredom with about ten minutes of absolute chaos. Rarely do we defenders see the fruits of our labor. So where does that leave us when we are asked about our contribution to Air Power, and what it means to us?

Recently I had the distinct honor and privilege to be front-and-center to witness the scale of Air Power at its finest. During my deployment in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn, I was offered an incentive ride aboard an aircraft, which I did not know existed mere months before. Inside were more than 30 people, all with individual jobs, and each a piece of the puzzle that contributes to the aircraft's overall mission.

This was not the only aircraft in the sky, however. There were numerous aircraft, not just of the U.S. Air Force, but NATO countries as well. Each aircraft had its own mission, and all were filled with individuals whom, had they not shown up for work that day, the mission might have failed.

I sat aboard the aircraft with the crew, completely in awe of the mission and what we could accomplish. I wondered if the crew realized just what they, as individuals, were contributing to the operation.

There we were, airborne along with a myriad of other aircraft from both U.S. and NATO countries, each contributing to the mission with overall success in the campaign.

The experience was inspiring in every sense of the word. However, there was one final lesson to learn.

After an extensive mission, we found ourselves on approach to our home location. There, the recovery crew of maintainers we cops had come to know by first names stood waiting our safe return. Then I saw as we taxied my defenders on the ramp. The pilot mentioned to me how tough it must be for those defenders to stand on the flight line protecting the aircraft for twelve hours of the day, despite wind, rain, heat and cold. I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride welling up in me. Of all the Air Power I had witnessed that day, I realized we were a huge part of it. We stood there, the silent guardians in the night, protecting the assets so they could do the missions. Perhaps we don't always get a front-seat view, but we are a very important piece to an intricate and awesome picture.