SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --
Looking back, I'm not sure when I became one of "them," but somewhere along the way it happened. Rather than being in on the jokes, Airmen now become silent when I enter a room, and now I sometimes can't fathom how Airmen make some of the choices they do.
I started wondering if I had lost touch with today's Airmen and whether or not I was expecting too much from them. But after a great deal of thought, I realized that I was not expecting too much from them ... I wasn't expecting enough of them.
Smack dab in the middle of our force structure looms a gaping generational chasm. "Back in the day" we had books, typewriters and libraries. Today's Airmen have iPads, laptops and the internet. Technological advancement and new ways of doing business can be seen in almost every career field.
The Air Force started out as a service to employ the nation's most advanced warfighting machines. As a result, the Air Force thrives on change, and Airmen today are smarter, more technologically capable and more adaptable than their predecessors. Change is the only constant, but regardless of change we are all still responsible for doing our job the right way every time.
As this article is being written, the 4th Fighter Wing is preparing for a major inspection. If you ask a senior NCO about inspections, they will be happy to tell you how "back in the day," inspections were tougher, the Airmen were tougher and how they walked barefoot to school, uphill both ways. There is no doubt that inspections have changed during the years, but ultimately, they still assess compliance. We in the military pride ourselves on our discipline and our uniformity. Yet, across the Air Force, there are too many examples of how Airmen at all levels have lost sight of this fundamental premise of military service.
Along with compliance comes accountability. We are all accountable for doing our jobs the right way, according to instructions and technical data, every time and for ensuring those around us do the same. My Airmen are tired of hearing this from me, but it is so simple and so true. If everyone did their job the right way, every time, we would never have to prepare for an inspection. We simply don't have the time or manpower to follow up after Airmen who choose not to do their jobs. "Back in the day" there was a technical sergeant leading a crew for every aircraft... now a single senior airman might be responsible for two to three aircraft at the same time. Across the Air Force, we are expecting our Airmen to learn faster and to lead sooner and today's Airmen are capable and ready for the challenge.
Therefore, it doesn't matter how many stripes you have on your sleeve, you need to have the courage to stand up and ensure things are done correctly, even if that means correcting someone of higher rank. This applies on and off duty. Ask yourself, "Am I willing to stand up to my friends or co-workers to prevent them from committing a safety or technical data violation? From driving while intoxicated? From drinking underage? From harming themselves or others?" Condemning or ridiculing someone for doing the right thing has no place in our Air Force and we need dedicated, courageous Airmen if we are to succeed.
The Air Force has undoubtedly changed, but so have the Airmen. We need to expect more out of ourselves and each other. Being an Airman is not a job. It is a way of life. Be able to look back every day with a sense of accomplishment, regardless of the size of the task you completed. Thank other Airmen if you see them doing a good job, especially if they are doing an especially difficult or thankless job. Appreciate the differences in our force structure and appreciate what our young and old Airmen are bringing to the fight. And most importantly, expect more and meet those expectations.
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