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Ambassadorship crucial to American misson

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- New rules prohibiting active duty military personnel from drinking off base and making sure we are home by 11 p.m., has caused a lot of people to alter the way they spend time with their friends or celebrate the holidays, including myself.

As easy as it would be to start pointing fingers and blame others for their wrong-doing, this is a great time to reflect why these rules are needed and why it's so important to be good ambassadors.

With the New Year just around the corner, one could understand the frustration of having curfews and liberty restrictions enforced during the holidays. I know "ambassador" is a word we've probably heard a million times as Airmen stationed overseas, but it might not be a concept that we've all tried to apply in our own lives.

Throughout the last couple years I've had the opportunity to visit a number of countries, not only representing the Air Force, but representing America. I've met many people from different walks of life, including Afghan children who threw rocks at American soldiers to Australian Army soldiers who liked to play Rugby on their down time. Every single one of those people left an impression on me about what people from other countries are like and how they perceived me as an American.

This past year while I was in Afghanistan, someone said something that really stood out to me. Before visiting a local village, an Airman explained the possible effects of making a bad impression to the local community in Afghanistan.

"Think about it," he said. "What if you're the first American a child meets and all they remember is that you were mean or disrespectful to them. Now that child is going to think all Americans are the same. That child and his family might not think twice about helping out bad guys who are trying to kill us. Now you're putting a fellow service member in harm's way."

I know an example like this is a bit extreme for service members here in Japan, but the idea is the same. The impression we make as Americans in a host county is extremely important - good or bad. We are doing our fellow service members and ourselves a favor by making good choices.

It's not always easy being stationed overseas and being thrown into a culture that is totally foreign to us, but sometimes the tiniest effort goes a long way. Learn a few words in the local language to be polite or try to understand why certain cultures do certain things that may seem different to you. At the very least, be respectful, follow the rules and honor the curfew.

American military members are not here in Japan by mistake, we have a significant mission that must be taken seriously. As service members, we have committed our lives and service to our country, if we can't follow orders and show just how great Americans can be, it could not only hurt our reputation in our host countries but it could make us unable to complete America's mission. Let's continue to show that we are America's best and brightest, and that our being stationed here can be a blessing to the people of Okinawa. Be a good example...be an Ambassador!