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Viewpoint: Know and enforce the standards

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Recently I had the privilege of attending an NCO academy graduation. The guest speaker for the evening was a local command sergeant major.

During his speech he said something that I hope hit home with the audience and something I want to share with you: an NCO's responsibility (and I'd say all Airmen) is to know the standards and enforce the standards. I think if you didn't learn anything else, this statement alone will get you far.

I'd like to share two personal stories that highlight what can happen when standards aren't followed: my introduction into the "real Air Force" and my first exposure to "re-bluing."

I arrived at my first duty station after basic training and tech school and greeted my sponsor with an enthusiastic, "Good Morning, Ma'am," to which she replied, "This is the real Air Force...just call me by my first name." So there I was, an airman 1st class being directed by my staff sergeant sponsor to call her by her first name. Problem? You bet.

Fast forward a few years. I attended an Airman Leadership School graduation and I asked one of the grads what he liked best about ALS. He said it was great to get "re-blued," to feel re-energized to go back to his work center and "do things the right way." I personally wondered how it was that a four-year Airman could have already learned to stop doing things the right way in the first place. Problem? You bet.

Every time I reflect on these experiences I come to the same conclusion as the command sergeant major: problems arise when we fail to know and especially enforce standards. This leads to the supervisor condoning and encouraging Airmen, either through example or inaction, to relax standards; or Airmen needing to be "re-blued" because day-to-day organizational chains of command accommodate substandard behavior.

General Bernard Rogers, Army Chief of Staff in 1977, stated, "The problem is not one of devising and posting new rules; the challenge is following the ones we have." There is no silver bullet. It takes every person in the chain of command, from the first-line supervisor to the general officer, to constantly and consistently know and enforce standards. You must expect excellence in order to get excellence!

Each of us has a personal choice to make every day. We can let our guard down and let the so-called "real Air Force" my sponsor introduced me to continue. Alternately, we can guard our Air Force by keeping its integrity intact and committed to excellence. Fight for the hard right! You'll be better for it, your Airmen will be better for it and the Air Force will be better for it! That's the real Air Force of which I want to be a part.
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