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True discipline

  • Published
  • By Col. Timothy Wollmuth
  • 934th Operations Group
Seventy years ago the Allied Forces launched Operation Overlord or D-Day, the invasion of the Normandy Coast of France and the beginning of the end of the Nazi German occupation of Europe. The 96th Troop Carrier Squadron assigned to the 440th Troop Carrier Group played an integral role in the success of D-Day, most notably dropping the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment and especially the "Filthy Thirteen," which loosely inspired the book and movie "The Dirty Dozen."

The "Thirteen" were known to be a raucous group of heavy drinkers and dirty fighters; yet this "undisciplined" group of hardened combat engineers tackled with great success the toughest of European missions during World War II. In spite of the infamy among their peers, the officers in charge and the allied leadership, the "Thirteen" were disciples of their profession, destroying with a vengeance the German Wehrmacht. Being coarse, disruptive and unrefined on a daily basis did not result in them being undisciplined in their mission capability. In contrast, the German soldiers they faced were highly versed in strict Prussian military codes of conduct and order; but, within a few short months these very "disciplined" soldiers had their backs pinned against the French-German border by the "undisciplined" Americans.

Over time the concept of military discipline has devolved into simply avoiding trouble, yet historically, as with the "Filthy Thirteen," discipline has referred to the much broader concept of military virtues and how one expresses them in the execution of their duties.
Far longer than the twenty-two years I have had the privilege of serving with the 934th Airlift Wing, the Vikings have had a reputation for being edgy in their approach to accomplishing the mission.

Those unfamiliar with our Viking heritage argue that the 934th is unrefined, and perhaps they are correct on some levels. However, as Vikings, we measure who we are by what we accomplish and how disciplined we are in the execution of our duties. We know that if our organization is to address discipline in the sense of good order and conduct at the expense of traditional military discipline then our ability to project force is hampered as we are diminished to show-pony status for the viewing pleasure of senior officers and political leaders. This is not to say that being polished, maintaining good order and professional conduct are irrelevant, but rather raises the question of where we focus the lion's share of our energy. I am proud to say that I have been a part of the Viking heritage of accomplishing more with less albeit in an "undisciplined" manner. In spite of lesser infrastructure, equipment and manpower compared to other C-130 airlift wings, this wing has filled taskings on a more frequent, for longer time periods and with greater numbers than wings twice its size by all measures.

Through the connection of the heritage of the 96th Airlift Squadron, the 934th Airlift Wing is rooted in the 440th Troop Carrier Group of D-Day. Originally assigned to Minneapolis following the war, in 1957 the 440th colors were transferred to Milwaukee along with the 95th TCS, the sister squadron to the 96th TCS. The 934AW has always, and will continue to serve this nation in the spirit of those brave men who flew the "Filthy Thirteen" behind enemy lines on the night of the 5th of June, 1944. By today's standard of discipline, many would argue that the military has no place for such "undisciplined" Soldiers or Airmen, yet it is exactly that edgy military discipline which made the 440th and the "Filthy Thirteen" capable of successfully accomplishing their missions in spite of their unpolished appearance. Similarly, albeit at a more subdued level of edginess, it is that same spirit which makes this wing successful today.

As I end my tenure with the Vikings, I leave my fellow leaders, Officers and Noncommissioned officers alike with the charge of maintaining discipline while developing expertise within their career fields. Whether it be Aerial Port, Security Forces, Force Support, Maintenance, Aeromedical Evacuation or Airlift, the present and future leaders need to develop disciples of their military disciplines.

Discipline in the sense of absolute compliance and appearance is certainly impressive as were the highly "disciplined" German soldiers, but this is not the discipline we as leaders should be asking our people to strive for. As leaders of the 934th we are all responsible for instilling military discipline in its purest sense, the ability to project force whenever and wherever we are called upon by our nation. That is our charter to our Air Force and our fellow citizens. When I reflect upon my time as a member of the 934th, I have observed the men and women of this wing conquer every challenge with the same distinction as those who served in the 440th some seventy years ago. It has been my privilege to serve in the shadows of true discipline.