An Airman's uniform hanging on a locker.
Cover Image courtesy of Terry Hemmitt

Black Perspectives #24: Terry Hemmitt (United States Air Force)

Trust The Process…

SSD: I’ve known you for a minute, so none of your rise in the ranks shocks me – you’ve always been spirited (thinking of football at Lincoln).

But, what made you decide to enter the Air Force over other branches of the Military, and when did you know that it was the path for you?

TH: I chose the Air Force because I was always told they had the best quality of life and focus more on skill development and education than other services. While my opinion on that has changed some, I’m happy that I chose the Air Force, and I realized it was the path for me when I was stationed in Northern Virginia.

I was emerging from a state of depression and grief following my Granny’s passing, and I realized how much of a difference the people I serve with made, and how much I wanted to pay that forward for other Airmen. I can’t think of a single profession that rallies around someone during such a difficult time the way we do in the military. There’s no tragedy too great that prevents us from taking care of one another.

Airmen United

SSD: That sounds honorable. As a man in uniform, you’re a symbolic hero to many — who are your heroes in life?

TH: First and foremost, my heroes are the people that sacrificed so much for me. Without their energy and effort, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and they didn’t know how it would turn out.

Second, I have an immense amount of respect for those that paid the ultimate price in giving their lives in defense of the country. From my great uncle Terry E. Hemmitt that died in Vietnam to those that I had the honor to serve alongside with; they’re true heroes.

SSD: I hear wisdom in that. What advice would the current YOU give to the past you on life?

TH: Be patient, be forgiving…of yourself and others, and be you.

SSD: What, if any, internal thoughts/pressure(s) did you feel as a young Black Man entering the Air Force?

TH: I don’t think this is unique to the Air Force, but I felt the pressure to be successful and be a model example of all the demographics, communities, and individuals I represent. It was important to me to put on for young Black men, especially those that grew up in similar situations like me.

Baby Hemmitt

I was raised in the inner city by my granny, the statistics for when I was a teenager would point towards everything but the success I’ve had. I owe it to the village that raised me to represent and achieve more.

This has all been for my family, LCPA, my church St. Marks, and everyone I’ve met along the way. The pressure is still there but I embrace it more now, as I fully understand the assignment.

SSD: Changing it up a bit — How many different countries have you been to while you’ve been enlisted?

TH: If I’m only counting those that I spent more than a day or two in, I’ve been to three different countries. All of which are in the Middle East and all of which are completely different from one another. From the advanced and often luxurious Qatar to the more rural Afghanistan to Iraq – which, at various times, provided a mixture of both.

They’re all beautiful countries for their own reasons with unique cultures.

SSD: Based on your travels, what pointers would you give Black People “moving through the world” – not just the U.S. – as global citizens?

TH: Biggest tip I can give is to put in the effort to become familiar with the language and culture of the country you’re visiting. People respond so favorably to that. The other tip I’d give is to be open-minded to new ideas, experiences, and cuisine. I don’t know if Americans, in general, understand the stereotypes associated with us when we’re abroad, it can make things challenging. From my experience, and those I’ve talked to in the military, in other countries we’re seen as Americans first and Black second.

…[R]elationships are the key to success in all that I’m tasked to do

Terry Hemmitt

SSD: What’s a regular day/week in your life like as an Airman?

TH: Monday thru Friday I wake up about 3:30 am to work out. Then I get myself ready for the day, and shortly after – get my kids ready. I get to work at 8 am, check email, and make a list of tasks to be completed that day and/or week.

I routinely have meetings, so I attend those when required – but I spend the remaining time making connections with hundreds of Airmen and peers because relationships are the key to success in all that I’m tasked to do.

There are no set hours, and the workload ebbs and flows. One day I could spend it almost entirely shooting the sh*t with people I work with, and the next could be a day full of meetings.

Both are necessary and play a part in building a culture and getting things done.

SSD: Aside — This is Terry at about 4 AM, people…

Gym Flow

SSD: Ok, don’t hate me for this, but I just have to ask… I know this is a stupid question, and I don’t know your MOS (NOTE: That slip is my old JROTC coming through. The Air Force refers to that as “AFSC” and I didn’t know that) – but…

What do you think of Top Gun? Are you looking forward to the new movie coming out soon? Is that like… an event for the Air Force?

TH: Lol. I am looking forward to the new movie but that’s more so because of the nostalgia remaining from seeing the first one. However, Top Gun is actually a Navy movie so I wouldn’t say it’s an event for the Air Force.

SSD: Touché.

SSD: Ok – Last one…

What is one thing you would hate to leave undone in your time as an Airman?

TH: I think it’s important to be clear that the toughest situations we face in the military, or America, may never be “done”. Therefore, it’s not a matter of accomplishment, but continued progression towards creating environments where people feel accepted, and where people feel valued.

I would hate to complete my service and not feel like I made positive contributions toward that movement.

I’m fully committed to helping on every level possible from one-on-one conversations with someone having a bad day, to advocating for resources, training, and policy changes that we need to make the difference that’s necessary.

CMSgt Hemmitt just enjoying a day being Terry.

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