Commentary by Lt. Col. Fred Taylor
50th Space Communications Squadron commander
I recently served a notification to separate an Airman for not adhering to Air Force standards.
This particular Airman tested positive for amphetamines during a random urinalysis. The sad part of this separation was the Airman loved the Air Force and his job — he truly enjoyed being part of our AF family. However, he didn’t take the privilege of wearing the uniform and serving his country seriously enough.
The oaths we take impart on us a moral obligation to uphold regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Taking illegal drugs or abusing prescription drugs violate the UCMJ and will not be tolerated; hence, this Airman’s separation.
Air Force conduct standards are higher than private sector standards for a reason. Military members swear to commit themselves to the defense of our country and are entrusted with the (sometimes classified) tools of our nation’s defense. Our leadership needs to have absolute confidence the military personnel with their hands on those tools are reliable and dependable. Casual drug use or illegally taking prescription medication may be tolerated in a few areas of the civilian world, but it is not tolerated anywhere in the military. While we are a part of civil society, the code we live by and the standards we maintain are indeed higher.
These standards apply not only to following rules and regulations, but also in our daily lives. The standards for physical fitness, dress and appearance, and customs and courtesies exceed many of the requirements of our civilian brethren. As a group, I would venture to say we are fitter and healthier than many in our nation. In 2010, the U.S. population was estimated at more than 308 million. The Air Force population was a mere 335,000, which means Airmen represent slightly more than 0.1 percent of our society. There is a good chance you are not part of the 26 percent of society that is obese, or the 20 percent in our country that smokes cigarettes, or the 25 percent of America that participate in no leisure-time physical activity according to statistics from Center for Disease Control. Understand that the Air Force’s renewed emphasis on physical fitness standards are designed to keep it that way and also to increase health benefits, lower medical costs, and reinvigorate the warrior ethos.
Take pride in the fact that you are one of a chosen few who took an oath to defend your country with your life. Be proud of the fact that our military culture prides itself on short haircuts, clean shaves, and proper customs and courtesies. The fact that you’ve chosen a career that values professionalism and “good order and discipline” is a point of pride…a demonstration of your commitment to a higher calling.
By virtue of the oath we take, the expectations of excellence and minimum standards are higher. Sometimes we fall below the expectations we put on ourselves, but we should never fall below the minimum standards. Take pride in the standards we uphold, take pride in yourself, your position, your organization, and our unique calling that demands we excel in matters of conduct, and personal fitness, as representatives of the Air Force. We were picked to be on an elite team, so let’s live up to that calling. With that higher calling comes higher standards and only you can determine that “you will not falter; and you will not fail.”