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In the rear view

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Joshua Hinsey
  • First-Term Airmen Center NCO-in-charge
Place yourself in the driver seat of a vehicle and your goal is to get from Point A to Point B. Seems pretty simple to achieve, but there are many factors which influence success. Ask yourself these questions: "Did you check your rear view mirror? How often? What was your speed and how often did your check your speedometer? Did you drive safely? Would you drive differently if someone was following you? How about if someone was looking over your shoulder? What if you were in a vehicle which had a 'How's my driving? Let me know' sign; would you get the feedback you wanted?"

Prior to taking to the wheel, what preparations are taken to ensure a smooth journey? During the First Term Airmen Course, we strive to broaden the Airmen's understanding of the Air Force. Throughout my tenure with the first term Airmen, I am constantly amazed and impressed with their bearing, discipline and professionalism. It is not uncommon for the Airmen to use "sir" or "ma'am" in a response to an NCO or higher ranking individuals, and some even go to the lengths of stating "yes or no, technical sergeant." They arrive to class 15 minutes early and call when they are running late. They have an understanding there are consequences to their actions and will, if given the opportunity, take ownership for their actions.

Over the past couple of years, I have heard the comment, "the new Airmen in the Air Force today are undisciplined and disengaged with the world." In addition, I have been asked the question, "where are the Airmen losing their discipline, or did they ever gain it?" In order to understand the bigger picture, I took a step back and started "people watching" around the base and what I found was interesting.

Unfortunately, I was amazed at the comments and actions by NCOs and some senior NCOs. Walking through the Base Exchange and food court it only takes but a second to see an individual with their hands tucked deep into their uniform pockets. A lesson quickly taught in basic training as unacceptable, as Air Force Instruction 36-2903 clearly states, "it is unacceptable, while in uniform, to stand or walk with hands in your pockets." Or there is the classic, individuals referring to a senior master sergeant as "senior." Air Force Instruction 36-2618, The Enlisted Force Structure -- also known as the little brown book -- specifically notes "senior" is not an appropriate term of address for a senior master sergeant.

These are just two of the issues that I saw while seeking understanding of the issue. Why are these examples important? The first with dress and appearance holds a myriad of reasons. One of them being, the nation depends on the military to provide security to the country and its people. A sloppy looking military does not present the image or psychological deterrent that a focused, precise and uniformed force does. As for the proper terms of address for a senior master sergeant, in the majority of units around the Air Force, most senior master sergeants are in the rating chain. When an individual refers to them as senior, it is befriending, and to some extent, degrading the rater or rater's rating official.

Ignoring these issues creates an atmosphere lacking attention to detail and disintegration in discipline, ultimately leading to chaos. Any introduction of chaos in the nuclear enterprise is unacceptable and has proven to lead to mistakes. Learning from past situations, mistakes in the nuclear world are costly and dangerous. As a note, this is not just exclusive to the nuclear enterprise; a mistake on an airframe can cost millions of dollars and possibly the lives of fellow Airmen.

When leading an individual from Point A to Point B, we keep a closer watch on our actions. This is to ensure our followers are able to make it to the final destination without any issues. Where is it that our Airmen are losing their discipline? Where is it that we have lost our discipline? When driving lead, every wrong turn we make, the follower will also turn in the wrong direction. If we take the correct route and the follower doesn't follow, it is important to take the time to get them back on the proper route.

It is our responsibility, as NCOs and senior NCOs, to lead the Airmen down the correct path and ensure the discipline instilled in Basic Military Training is continually reinforced in the operational Air Force.