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Chief's Corner - week of Sept. 24

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Taking Responsibility

As kids, we all caused trouble at one time or another.  When confronted, we either owned up to our part or we blamed our sibling, another person or even said "I don't know."  When we tried to pass off the responsibility, our parents always found out the truth.  It never failed!  I remember telling my children, "You might as well be honest, come forward and tell me, if I find out another way the consequences will be even worse."   It took them a few times to realize, mom always found out and the consequences were not worth it.  It is always better to be honest, hold oneself accountable and understand it takes courage to always do the right thing.  Does this sound familiar? It should sound similar to the Air Force Core Values first statement "Integrity First."  Without even knowing it, our parents were preparing us for our future in the Air Force.

As my children have grown, they themselves have used those same words on their kids.  I hear them say, "Tell the truth, take responsibility for what you did."  I stand there and giggle; they actually heard me and learned something!  What I find interesting is after 24 years in the military I see some of these same traits in our Airmen, blaming others for their errors and failures rather than taking responsibility.  My first thoughts were, how come we are having this issue, are they not taught as kids and what is influencing our young Airmen?  What I found from talking to a few Airmen was they were seeing crew commanders/chiefs and others not taking responsibility so they thought it was OK.

How do we teach our Airmen to do the right thing no matter what they see? How do we emphasize that blaming others and not holding oneself accountable is not how the military/life works? We have to be willing to make a stand and be the one to hold people accountable, take ownership, responsibility and pride not only in ourselves, but also in our fellow Airmen.  How many times have we heard "It was someone else's fault", "There was an error on crew" or "I did not receive a firewall 5."

When young Airmen come in they are sponges; soaking up all they see and hear; learning the military life.  When we (aka, the more seasoned) show them such things as fear makes people pass the buck, or lay blame on others and you can get away with it, it reinforces their impression it is OK to act and respond in this manner. These young Airmen will then follow in the wrong footsteps.

The Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, said

"Starting on day one, every uniformed and civilian Airman learns about our Air Force Core Values.  They are our first principles, and they guide everything we do - on and off duty, at home, in the office and on the battlefield.  As the world's finest Airmen, we must trust each other and we must never stop working to earn the trust and respect of the Americans we serve."

From day one we need to give our Airmen expectations and boundaries to start them off on the right path.  We need to lead by example, be honest and express clearly to them what is expected in return.  We are the ones who give support, discipline and feedback to make them better.  So they can overcome challenges and face up to difficulties and failures.  We use teamwork to fix issues and accomplish missions.  The military is not a team of one.

When we are not honest with our Airmen, how can we expect them to be honest with us?  We must hold each other accountable.  It is not easy to tell someone they are not living up to expectations, or failing to take responsibility for their actions, but this is how they understand where and how they fit in the big picture. When we do not hold them accountable, it should not be a surprise when they do not reach their goals.  Documentation is the tool we have to show our Airmen when they do not take responsibility for their actions or for not getting something they expected.

When we have an Airmen who does not take responsibility for their actions, and they begin to spread that bad seed throughout the unit, morale takes a dive and issues arise.  Confronting personnel who do not accept what has happened due to their actions is not easy.  It can be a constant struggle to get through, but we cannot quit.  We owe it to our Airmen to teach them about responsibility as they grow and bloom into our future leaders.
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