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Commentary: The buck stops with each of us

Col. Robert Uemura, 460th Support Group commander

Col. Robert Uemura, 460th Support Group commander

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- As Air Force professionals, we are tasked with fighting and winning our nation's wars. By far, this goes well beyond an 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. "job." It requires you to attain the highest technical skills, have a 24/7 commitment and submit to personal sacrifices. In doing so, we earn the public's trust.

But this trust does not come without responsibility and accountability, both of which are at the very heart of being an Airman. So let's examine responsibility and accountability, and understand what they should mean to you and to our Air Force.

Just months after the Air Force core values were first published in 1997, Gen. Charles Krulak, then commandant of the Marine Corps, published an article in the Marine Corps Gazette that clarified the vital differences between responsibility and accountability. While this article was addressed to Marines and the Corps, it is definitely fitting to apply its message to Airmen and our Air Force.

In paraphrasing Gen. Krulak's message, he states that when you first become an [Airman], you are expected to be responsible for yourself--do your duty and do it well. However, soon after, you are expected to lead; maybe a customer service or help desk, or perhaps the new Airman who joins your duty station.

Regardless of where you are assigned or who you are leading, this leadership comes with authority. Oftentimes you are encouraged to share this authority, or delegate, to efficiently complete your tasks. But no matter how often you delegate your authority, you can never delegate your responsibility. The ownership of responsibility, to ensure what is done is right, is solely entrusted to you as a leader.

Now let's consider accountability. Responsibility and accountability go hand in hand. In fact, they can be seen as opposite sides of the same coin. Accountability means you must answer for the sum of what you have done; it is based on whether you made responsible decisions.

As Gen. Krulak succinctly said, accountability is "an end product...the proof of whether or not you have been responsible."

We are entrusted with the security of our country. Our trade is lethal and we conduct operations that risk untold national treasure--our nation's sons and daughters. Accountability is what the nation expects of its Air Force and therefore, what the nation expects of you.

Each one of us is an Air Force professional. We are empowered to wield authority to achieve mission success. Hence, we are all leaders in our own right.

Responsibility is inherent with this leadership, and therefore the buck stops with each of us. We are all accountable to our superiors, our fellows, our Air Force and our nation--lest we forget.

This article was written in part by 2nd Lt. Nancy Loudermilk.
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