Commentary by Chief Master Sgt. Brad Shirley
50th Operations Group Superintendent
Each of us grew up with a fundamental understanding of authority and rules. No matter the direction we chose to take, the basis of discipline and the consequences of deviating from it were instilled in us as children and grew with us as adults. Discipline is one cornerstone of the foundation from which we, the military as an institution, operate.
Failure to uphold or maintain it can jeopardize unit morale and mission accomplishment. Commanders, supervisors and entire organizations can work endless hours building an organization’s foundation through setting standards and laying out expectations. However, without applying consequences for failure to meet those standards or expectations, discipline cannot exist and our foundation is weakened.
Accountability is critical to maintaining discipline.
Significant discipline problems usually have the necessary level of attention and oversight to ensure they are corrected appropriately. However, it tends to be the minor infractions we ignore or allow people to get away with and these are the ones that can manifest themselves into bigger issues if not rectified. The infiltration of these deviations can grow like a weed. A single weed in a plush yard will usually go unnoticed or if it is noticed we don’t see it as impacting the look of the lawn. However, if not taken care of it grows, multiplies and eventually takes over a once beautiful yard. The single weed in this analogy could be a deviation in standards or a substandard Airman. Either way, if left unattended the unacceptable situation will either grow or infect other Airmen. Our AF cannot afford the impacts these deviations have on morale or resources; to conduct the mission we must act.
So why are these issues allowed to grow within our military organizations? Instructions, directives and policies describe the standards we must meet. Every level of professional military education reminds us of our responsibility to correct it. It sounds like everything is in place, yet even the simplest of deviations go uncorrected or unchallenged. There are no justifications to warrant inaction. I feel the answer is as simple as you and me; better known as self-discipline.
Self-discipline, as it implies, starts with each of us. We must have the fortitude to keep ourselves vectored appropriately and be disciplined to correct those that stray below the standard or expectation.
Self-discipline takes active and continuous monitoring. Because many times we cannot see ourselves taking the wrong path, we must rely on our wingman to help point out those deviations and provide course corrections. However, it is this assistance that seems to be the more difficult challenge.
Whether it is you or someone else, today’s society has the tendency to take the path of least resistance and in this case that means not correcting an issue when it presents itself; especially if it means confronting an individual. Correcting the situation, no matter how small or large, is every Airman’s responsibility. Step up to that responsibility or consider finding yourself another occupation. If you cannot correct a simple deviation, you are unlikely to be able to correct a serious one and our AF cannot afford that kind of leadership. Keep that weed from taking over the yard.
I feel safe in saying not one of us joined the AF team to fail. We joined to fulfill a personal goal, a commitment to something much larger than ourselves and/or for a way of life. No matter the reason, we each took this obligation knowing it came with a level of responsibility not only to yourself but, also to your fellow Airmen. Being a wingman is about helping each other; sometimes that may require a less than desirable discussion to correct behavior or simply put someone back on the right path. It’s not malicious or aimed at belittling that person. It is intended to allow them to continue fulfilling their reason for serving.
So next time you see a breach in discipline; be a wingman and keep that cornerstone of our foundation rock solid. You are doing it for yourself, your fellow Airmen and your AF. Be the solution, not the problem; GO MAKE A DIFFERENCE!