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Air Force primed to adopt official motto

WASHINGTON -- Seeking an enduring and distinctive way to reflect the Air Force's cultural identity and adapt to changing missions, senior leaders have solicited feedback from Airmen to help develop potential mottos, officials said Aug. 2.

"The intent is to create a phrase that captures the spirit of the Air Force, is inspirational, and serves as an enduring rallying cry for Airmen, from Airmen," said Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Carrol H. "Howie" Chandler.

General Chandler approached the Air Force Ad Council in February, said Lt. Col. Clark Groves, the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs chief of opinion research and media assessment. The general directed the council to explore ways to gather Air Force-wide inputs to create a motto that distinctively captures what it means to be an Airman and to communicate what the Air Force represents.

"We're an all-volunteer, expeditionary Air Force at war," Colonel Groves said. "Even while we maintain a wartime tempo, we must continue to attract, recruit, retain, educate, develop and unify our force."

Air Force officials expressed confidence that the nearly year-long process to gather input from Airmen will yield worthy candidate mottos reflecting a research-supported sense of their unique military service identity.

The input and research process will soon yield a list of 10 candidate mottos that will go to a "rack-and-stack" preference test in a survey sent to thousands of Airmen throughout the Air Force, Colonel Groves said. The commander of Air Education and Training Command will then present the final three selections at the upcoming CORONA hosted by the Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo., at the end of September.

"To be enduring, the motto must represent the essence of the Air Force culture," Colonel Groves said. "It must capture the Airman's sense of what it means to be part of that culture, a sense of their Air Force identity. Mottos remind of us what we stand for and value as individuals, as a service, as families and as a nation."

Colonel Groves made the distinction between temporary recruiting slogans and an official motto, which will be the service's first.

"People may recall slogans such as 'Aim High,' 'No One Comes Close,' and 'Cross Into the Blue' seen in ad campaigns supporting recruiting efforts," Colonel Groves said. "The Air Force motto, in contrast, is focused on building esprit-de-corps, and is meant to endure to future generations of Airmen."

During a series of face-to-face focus groups held with hundreds of Airmen worldwide, many participants cited the Marine Corps' mainstay "Semper Fi" as an example of a strong and enduring expression of military identity.

Air Force officials said their intent is not to emulate another service, but to use the effectiveness and endurance of that motto's perception as a baseline for this project's goals.

Extensive feedback from Airmen collected via Web-based and face-to-face surveys have provided a path for developing an enduring motto, Colonel Groves said.

"Our main objective at the start of the process was to capture the pure, unfiltered perspective of our active-duty, Reserve and Guard forces on what it meant to them to be an Airman," Colonel Groves said. "We've now collected vital inputs from thousands of Airmen as a baseline, and as we proceed, the Air Force is committed to an open process driven by that input."

The final motto will be published following CORONA.