Back to the basics

  • Published
  • By Maj. Rick Parent
  • Commander, 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron
I recently received a call from an old friend. We were stationed together in the 1990s at my first duty station. We started reminiscing and my friend mentioned a particular crusty old Master Sergeant who used to walk around muttering, "This isn't the same Air Force as it was back when I joined; it's time for me to go."

Part of me agrees with him, because things have changed. Some are positive changes, due to new policies for instance, but a few things have changed because we as supervisors have allowed the changes.

We are no longer allowed to smoke inside buildings or on government transportation; instead there are designated outdoor smoking areas. It is now looked upon unfavorably, and also just plain illegal, to have alcoholic drinks during a meal and then return to duty. And we now have a physical training program that is difficult to pass if you don't work-out regularly. These policies occurred as a result of scientific studies aimed at promoting a healthier and safer environment for each of us.

Do you remember basic training? It was there, at the beginning of our careers, that we were instilled with fundamental principles of behavior and leadership. During training, our drill instructors used behavior modification techniques - some of them quite creative - to mold us and to get us back on track when we strayed. We were held accountable for our behavior and actions, and our drill instructors didn't hesitate to correct us if we fell out of line.

Early in my career I was told that if I had a positive, can-do attitude and a sharp uniform, I would be able to accomplish anything in the Air Force. Those words of wisdom have served me well during my career. This winter my nephew joined the Air Force and asked me for advice. I gave him the same advice I was given many years ago, but I added a line I think we should all reflect on so we aren't someday saying, "This just isn't the same Air Force I joined." I told my nephew, "Have a positive, can-do attitude, keep a sharp uniform and never forget what you were taught in basic training - always hold yourself and others accountable to those standards."

As I reflect back on my conversation with my old friend, I guess he was right, but for the wrong reasons. This isn't the same Air Force we entered. Some changes through the years were due to policy changes, aimed at promoting the greater good of the total force. Other perceived changes are just how leaders and supervisors are interpreting and acting on the basics we were taught all those years ago. The bottom line is we all received the same foundational training and were instilled with the same principles. If the Air Force has changed for the worse, it's because we have allowed it to.

When you start thinking or feeling that this isn't the same Air Force you joined, it's time for you to make a change back to the basics. Hold yourself and others accountable. You can make a difference.