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Remembering our Oath

Lt.Col. Bryan Best, 50th Mission Support group deputy commander

Lt.Col. Bryan Best, 50th Mission Support group deputy commander


On Jan. 14, 50th Mission Support Group leadership readily encouraged our new executive officer, 1st. Lt. Hayden Graham, as he feverishly attempted to connect to the live stream of Gen. John Raymond’s swearing in ceremony as Chief of Space Operations of the United States Space Force.  After the live stream dropped repeatedly, Col. Brian Kehl, 50th MSG commander ‘fired’ Graham for not immediately being able to solve the network’s live streaming issues. Fortunately, we were able to connect via personal devices so we could at least listen to the historic event. 

I’m glad we stayed committed to the cause as I truly appreciated Raymond’s comments on the oath and where he had previously administered and recited it.  As is well known, taking the oath is required for all military members at least once and it is becoming tradition to recite it again at promotion ceremonies.  Like Raymond, I am sure many of us can recall details on each of our own oath recitations.

Probably not as well known is that military oaths date back to ancient Roman times when soldiers pledged loyalty to a specific general for a specific campaign; after the campaign ended, the oath no longer applied.  When Rome established a professional military, the oath became effective for the soldier’s term of service.  During our Revolutionary War, the founding fathers had serious concerns with pledging allegiance to any specific person. General George Washington issued a general order that required all officers to specifically renounce King George III and support the United States.  Later, Washington court-martialed a soldier, in part, for actions that were “contrary to the tenor of his bond and oath of office.” The origin of our current military oath can be traced back to the first session of the First Congress in 1789. This oath consisted of only 14 words and pledged to support the Constitution only. Since then, 19 pieces of legislation have addressed the oath; 11 amended the officer oath, three impacted the enlisted oath and five addressed both - its original meaning is still intact.

Given this history and significance of our profession, is it odd that news articles on the ceremony did not include Raymond’s comments on the oath or share his stories on where he had previously recited it? I’m sure many are not surprised by this exclusion as the oath and the Constitution are not a big part of our day-to-day operations, but does this mean we as the military community and general public have become numb to their words and meaning? Do we take it all for granted? When was the last time the oath or the Constitution was part of an office or field discussion?  Or when was the last time you read the Constitution?  From my experience, little institutional and individual attention is given to these areas outside of promotion ceremonies as we tend to focus on strategy, operations, personnel and unfortunately to a disproportionate degree in my opinion, taskers. 

Does any of this matter?  We have been, and are still, the most powerful and capable military in the world, but are we truly able to honor our oath, to protect and defend something that is not continuously studied, understood or even discussed?  This probably depends on one’s perspective; but at the next promotion ceremony, I encourage you to really think about and reflect on the words of the oath as they are recited, whether it is your ceremony or someone else’s.  Remember its history and its connection from the first patriots fighting for our nation’s freedom to the patriots of the new Space Force as we continue to ensure the peace.  In the end, it is our oath, they are our words - make them count.

Writer’s Note: 1st. Lt. Graham was not actually fired or injured during the CSO live streaming event.