Self-licking ice cream cones serve only themselves

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Mark A. Holling
  • 71st Operations Group first sergeant
Self-licking ice cream cones. Huh? Yeah, self-licking ice cream cones. Picture it for a moment. A self-licking ice cream cone stands only for its own enjoyment; no one else's. So what good is it? 

The Double-Tongue Dictionary defines a self-licking ice cream cone as: n. a process, department, institution, or other thing that offers few benefits and exists primarily to justify or perpetuate its own existence. Sadly, there are a few in the U.S. Air Force. 

Let's talk about a few processes that we deal with on a daily basis. The enlisted performance report is an outstanding process that allows us to communicate standards, provide feedback and accurately rate our subordinates' performance. Yet, how often do you sit in the club and listen to friends complain about being wronged on their EPR and how they did not deserve the rating they received on their last report? 

Think about how inflated we've made the system. A "4" says our Airman is above average and a "3" says average. Yet realistically we all know that anything below a "5" -- truly among the best-- says a troop stinks, right? 

We supervisors fail to communicate the standards to our Airmen and more importantly, we fail to hold our subordinates accountable to those standards. We don't want to be the bad guy. 

You've got to communicate with your Airmen. Make the tough call. And Airmen, you have to communicate with your supervisors. Subordinates should not be surprised at what they are getting if supervisors do their job. 

If everyone is a "5," what good is the system? It has become a self-licking ice cream cone. 

How about physical training? What a great program -- on paper. Mission allowing, your commander is required to give you up to 90 minutes of duty time, three times a week to perform PT. Furthermore, commanders provide you with trained, motivated physical training leaders and encourage group activities from time to time. 

You are required to perform a fitness assessment only one time a year. The PT program was never designed to simply help you pass the assessment, but to encourage a healthy lifestyle that guarantees your success and longevity. To set you apart from those that can't pass the assessment, your EPR reflects whether or not you meet the standard.
I've seen wing commanders preach the glory of PT -- health, camaraderie, teamwork, increased morale -- as they should. We're warriors. 

However, the wing commander's enthusiasm isn't always appreciated in the trenches. Some of us are just plain lazy and don't like having to perform PT three or four times a week. When we fail to fix these problems, we turn the program into a self-licking ice cream cone. 

Both the EPR and the PT processes were designed to make us intelligent, fit warriors, and to clearly separate the best from those that need some work. We all have a responsibility to establish and communicate standards. 

When our troops meet and exceed those standards, we should give them the Scooby snacks that will sustain that performance or make it better. The unenviable part is holding troops accountable for poor performance and communicating what it takes to bolster that performance -- instead of just whining about it at the club. 

Do you have the guts to? If you can't or won't - no ice cream for you.