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Airman's 9-11 Lesson: Military Isn't "Just a Job"

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2002 – The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America drove home the unique importance -- and dangers -- of military service, a young Air Force enlisted woman noted.

Prior to the attacks, being in the military to her "was just going on doing your job," said Airman 1st Class Michelle A. Sulit, 21, a health services administrator at the Pentagon's Flight Medicine Clinic.

The events of Sept. 11 reminded her and, she's sure, other service members, "why you're in the military and what your job is," she said.

Even after three years of active service, including duty in Guam, Sulit acknowledged she's a relative newcomer to the military and its special emphasis on duty. Yet, she has definite feelings about America's course in the global war against terrorism.

"I think President Bush took the right steps in going to war to stop" terrorism, Sulit said. "I support him 100 percent."

The airman said she has come a long way from her hometown of North Platte, Neb. Marine friends, Sulit noted, convinced her to join the military. She signed up for a four-year Air Force enlistment "pretty much for the benefits, and the school."

However, Sulik has found both an occupation and love in the military, pointing to her recent marriage to a fellow airman. The war has separated the newlyweds, and she's reminded of the demands of military duty. The couple awaits reunion, pending approval of a request for joint spousal assignment.

"I'll be joining my husband, hopefully soon," she remarked.

Sulit described her Pentagon work as "interesting," noting it "was a big career opportunity" to work inside the five- sided building.

"It was one of my choices to come here," she remarked.

However, when terrorist-hijacked airliners crashed into the New York World Trade Center's twin towers, the Pentagon, and in a Pennsylvania field, she realized there was more to military life than she'd originally considered.

Arriving for duty at the Pentagon four months after the hijacked airliner slammed into the building, she met medics in her office who had attended to the injured that fateful day. All in her section continue to perform their duties diligently, she said, but she sometimes perceives their quiet sadness.

Sulit believes the ways Americans view their lives has "dramatically changed" since Sept. 11. To her, people seem to be re-examining the way they look at things, the way they look at life, the way they view things. And military members are no different.

The terrorist attacks have "made it more clear to people why they joined," Sulit emphasized. She said her coworkers and other military members and civilians risked their lives to rescue people and to care for the wounded at the Pentagon.

"They were willing to do that. They proved that when they stepped up and took the actions they did on Sept. 11," she noted. Now, war or no war, she's is eager to "Stay Air Force."

"I'll be re-enlisting," Sulit remarked.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAirman 1st Class Michelle A. Sulit, 21, said she supports President Bush's decision to fight global terrorism "100 percent." The three-year Air Force veteran noted that the Sept. 11 attacks have "made it more clear" to service members "why you're in the military, and what your job is." Photo by Gerry Gilmore.  
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