Viewpoint: Don't do dumb things

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David Scanlon
  • 566th Intelligence Squadron commander
As a cadet at Texas A&M University I was a member of an organization that annually marched in the final Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans. It was a trip we all looked forward to for obvious reasons - three days away from college at Mardi Gras! Prior to departing we received a safety brief from our military advisor, an "experienced" Marine Corps sergeant major, who said, "Gentlemen, while we're in New Orleans I have only one rule: don't do dumb things."

I remember thinking at the time this very simple rule was somewhat lacking in guidance and structure. I expected a number of policies and curfews to govern our actions and movements. There were, after all, more than 60 of us college kids at one of this country's biggest parties. There were a whole lot of ways we could get into trouble.

When we returned to College Station, Texas, without any incidents, I realized "don't do dumb things" was one of the best pieces of advice anyone has ever given me. It's simple, easy to remember and enabled each of us to avoid several situations that could have had very bad consequences. It has stayed with me through my Air Force career and is something I frequently pass along to younger Airmen.

As a service, the standards to which we hold ourselves have enabled us to become the most powerful Air Force in the world. To meet these standards we frequently discuss being accountable for our actions - at all times, whether on duty or off. Excellence in all we do doesn't apply only when you're wearing a uniform. Unfortunately, as a commander I have seen several individuals who failed to meet these standards and gotten themselves into trouble. And very often, the problem was caused by nothing more than poor decision making.

One of the great things about our Air Force is by and large we do not have a "one and done" policy. Anyone can recover from a mistake and still have an exceptional career. However, almost all of these mistakes could have been avoided if there was some forethought about the potential consequences of the action. For the individual the consequences can range from minor, such as lost money and time, to extremes like confinement. From the perspective of the Air Force the consequences always result in lost productivity. Bottom line, mistakes from being dumb are always a lose-lose situation.

It's no secret we are currently in a period of extremely high ops tempo with constrained resources. We can't afford to lose our most important resource to poor behavior and dangerous actions that could have been avoided with a little forethought. Nobody is perfect and to err is human; however, by thinking about the consequences before acting anyone can avoid most problems. Remember the simple phrase, "don't do dumb things." It's an excellent tool to help you make smart and proper decisions.