AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates --
Most Airmen spend their entire Air Force career focused on one thing: the mission.
What “the mission” is varies from installation to installation, from squadron to squadron, and from Airman to Airman. How does one’s mission affect other Airmen assigned to a different Group or Wing? How do these seemingly disparate and highly varied mission sets relate to one another, ultimately achieving the U.S. Air Force’s overarching objectives?
Enter Staff Sgt. Sean O’Neill, a flight and operational medical technician currently deployed as a member of the 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Force Protection team, and the founder and president of Al Dhafra’s Honorary Member Program.
“I created this program because I wanted to be a part of an organization that didn’t just volunteer, but learned about how the mission is executed by all of us,” explained O’Neill. “There are many jobs in the U.S. Air Force and I don’t know what everyone does, how it impacts the mission, and how we all come together. I was sure I couldn’t be the only one thinking about this.”
O’Neill certainly wasn’t alone in his curiosity; with more than 100 members and 11 squadrons participating so far, the ADAB Honorary Members Program has given Airmen a chance to walk a mile in another’s boots. The program gives participants the opportunity to learn about careers they may have never heard of prior to their deployment, and provides unique perspective on the interconnecting mission sets that comprise the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing and the Air Force as a whole.
Staff Sgt. Amanda Mulleneix, Honorary Member Program vice president and 380th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron NCO in charge of personal property and passenger travel, said she first heard of the program while under preemptive quarantine with O’Neill prior to their deployment. She has been working alongside him to bring the program to fruition since its inception, and said her favorite part of her role is seeing members from diverse career fields come together to achieve a common goal.
“I thought about how there were so many jobs that I have no idea what they do day in and day out, but I want to know,” said O’Neill. “What the Honorary Members do is we go to each squadron that will have us, we learn what jobs are in their squadron, what their jobs entail, and, simply put—what they do. This brings us together to understand each other and how the larger mission gets done.
“After we hear from the squadron, the Honorary Members complete a volunteer project for them. These include leadership projects, moving furniture, repainting office areas, resource re-allocation, or even cleaning squadron grounds. After completion of the projects, the squadron awards the Honorary Members with their squadron patch.”
So far, the Honorary Members Program has held immersion events with the 380th AEW, the 380th Expeditionary Medical Group, the 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, and the U.S. Air Forces Central Air Warfare Center.
Working in the medical field, O’Neill said he has sometimes been called a “nonner,” a disparaging term used by operations and maintenance personnel to describe “non-sortie generating” roles in the Air Force. O’Neill resolved to destroy the stigma of that designation by challenging himself and others to take pride in their roles and create opportunities to prove the importance of the work they do every day.
“I wanted Airmen that participated in this program to be able to have a story behind why they have that patch, how they earned it instead of just buying it,” said O’Neill. “I wanted to have the Honorary Members learn about the squadron and feel they were, in a way, now a part of it even if they are a ‘nonner’ like myself. I wanted Airmen to leave here and truly feel they’re leaving not only ADAB better than it was, but they themselves are leaving better than they were.
“I want our Honorary Members to not just say ‘I was at ADAB,’” explained O’Neill. “I want our members to say “I was ADAB!”
ADAB Airmen interested in participating in the Honorary Members Program should email the program’s organizational inbox at firstname.lastname@example.org