Military service is not 'just another job'

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David Carroll
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Director of Staff
If you've been in the Air Force for a while, you've seen it or heard it. 

You hear it when a young enlisted Airman or lieutenant talks to a senior NCO or officer in "yeahs" and "uh huhs." 

You see it when retreat sounds and people continue walking to get inside, or fail to stop their car in respect. 

I'm speaking of the slow degradation of the display of customs and courtesies in our Air Force. While all of our accession programs teach our Core Values and the Airman's Creed, I still see the decline of respect and wonder. 

I wonder why people enter the service of arms with an attitude that this is just another job. Military service is not "just another job," and never will be. Some of us will be charged with employing weapons on enemy targets. Others will be tasked with supporting those missions in some form or fashion. 

I'd like to take a look at our Core Values and share a few of my thoughts on each, hopefully giving us all something to think about and share. 

Integrity First: The best explanation I have heard on integrity is that it is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking. We should all be doing the right thing, all the time. It also means that, if you mess up, fess up! 

Bad news is not like fine wine; it never improves with age. Be honest, seek out your supervisor, and explain what happened. You have a much better chance of being mentored, rather than disciplined, if you do. Being honest in our failures, as well as our successes, is a big part of integrity. 

Service Before Self: This is a huge area that could take up volumes. It boils down to doing what the service requires of you regardless of the personal impact. 

While it's not likely that any Air Force member will be asked to charge the machine gun nest at obvious peril, some of our recent graduates probably feel that way. They entered pilot training with the expectation that they'd be flying some of the world's most technologically advance aircraft. Some of them are going to be doing that from the isolation of a control station for an Unmanned Aircraft System. 

However, most are pressing forward with enthusiasm knowing what they will be doing has a direct impact on the war on terror. For others, it may mean getting home late for dinner or missing that hot date because there's work that needs to be done. 

If you ever think that you've been asked to do too much for the Air Force, think of Col. John W. Ripley, U.S. Marine Corps. As a young captain in Vietnam, his orders were simple: "Hold and die." 

Excellence In All We Do: We should be doing our duties to the best of our ability and striving to improve our skills at every opportunity. For a pilot, that means staying in the books, increasing the depth of technical knowledge about the aircraft, its capabilities and employment. 

Every career field has its parallel to this. The young enlisted force has Career Development Course materials, as well as the pertinent Air Force Instructions to be mastered. 

Even executive assistants can advance their abilities by working to master the abundance of office automation software we utilize on a daily basis. We can all expand our knowledge and abilities within our core career field, and beyond. In the process, we create excellence. 

How do we stop the slow degradation of customs and courtesies in our Air Force? The first step is taking these things to heart within ourselves. You can't mentor others if it's not in you. Spread the word. When you see someone not striving for these ideals, talk to them. 

Mentor your subordinates, especially by being the example. Be the example that others, subordinates, peers and even superiors, wish to emulate. If we all strive to meet the standard set by our Core Values, and guide others to do the same, the Air Force will be the shining gem of the service of arms.