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Set a positive example

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Mac Langdon
  • 2nd Operations Support Squadron
Each day we have the opportunity to set an example which may significantly impact others. Will that impact be positive or negative?

Several years ago, a group of individuals, both officers and enlisted, some in uniform and some not, gathered in the front lobby of the Barksdale gym. The time was approximately one minute before the national anthem played. There was no talking going on, but everyone knew why they were "hanging out" in the lobby. Finally, just before the national anthem was scheduled to start, a young senior airman walked past the door. Someone quickly let him know that he should not go outside because the national anthem was getting ready to start.

The young Airman gave the group of individuals a look of disappointment and then said, "I know it's getting ready to start."

He then stepped out of the gym and stood at attention and saluted as the national anthem began playing. I cannot tell you what was running through the minds of the other individuals who chose not to go outside at that very moment. However, I can tell what one young officer was thinking - what a poor example he had just set and what a superb example the young Airman had just set for those "hanging out" in the lobby.

I never had a chance to find out that Airman's name or to tell him the impact he had on me, but I did have a chance to follow his example several years later while setting up a conference for squadron commanders.

One afternoon the conference ended around retreat and all the squadron commanders were gathered by the door talking. I walked past them to exit the building and one of them told me not to go outside because the national anthem was getting ready to play.

"Yes sir, I know," I said as I proceeded to walk outside to pay the proper respects to the flag.
To my surprise, when the national anthem was over the squadron commanders were standing behind me, having exited as well to render proper respects to the flag. The positive example the young Airman had set several years earlier at the base gym had now impacted even more people.

This same positive example spirit was brought to my attention several months ago. A young Airman in civilian clothes noticed four individuals in uniform rush to their government vehicle to avoid standing at attention and saluting during the national anthem. As soon as the national anthem was over, the young Airman took off chasing down the vehicle on foot - yes, on foot - and told them to stop. He then proceeded to respectively tell the occupants how disappointed he was in them and that their actions were unacceptable. The four individuals apologized to the young Airman.

It is my hope those four individuals will always remember that day and will choose the right example the next time. I believe they will. Not only did the young Airman positively influence the them that day, he caught the eye of a senior NCO who set a positive example by taking the time to notify the leadership of the Airman who chased down the vehicle on foot. As you can imagine, this story spread quickly and was relayed to many within the Airman's unit.

Doing what is right and setting a positive example, on and off duty and at any location, has no rank requirement; it's everyone's responsibility. Remember, it only takes one person setting a positive example to make an impact on many others. Sometimes you may see the direct impact of your actions immediately and sometimes you may never know the impact you have on others until days, months or even years down the road.

Each and every day at Barksdale Air Force Base and around the Air Force we have many great Airmen setting positive examples without looking for any fanfare. They do it because they are proud to serve and because it is the right thing to do. I, for one, am proud to serve with such great individuals and thank them for their positive example.