Standards - our lives depend on them

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Robert W. Rodewald
  • 97th Mission Support Group
As members of a uniformed military service we take an oath to faithfully obey the orders of the president and the commissioned officers appointed over us. We are also expected to uphold, maintain and comply with numerous standards in the performance of our duties. For most of us, maintenance of standards is an easy task - it's enforcing the standard that is difficult for most people.

In the 22 years I've served our Air Force, I've noticed it has become more common to ignore, or not correct a standard violation in the hope that someone else will "play the bad guy" and correct it. I can remember about a year ago while working out in the fitness center, I encountered a young Airman wearing black socks with his physical training uniform, and of course we all know only white socks are authorized with the physical training uniform. The fitness center was full of people so I assumed someone had already corrected the violation, but I had an obligation to ask anyway. I said, "Excuse me I'm sure someone has already told you this, but any color socks other than white aren't authorized with the PT uniform." His answer stunned me-not one person had stepped forward to correct this standards violation; literally dozens of people chose to walk by and ignore it.

It's no accident that the first thing we learn while in basic military training is strict adherence to standards. Can you imagine what it would have been like had the training instructors not established standards or corrected violations when they occurred? Would new Airmen have learned to drill as a unit executing facing and drill movements with razor sharp precision? Would there have been good order, cleanliness and safety in our dormitories? The answer is clearly "no" to both of these questions.

So why were they so "passionate" about enforcing the standards? Because it is absolutely critical to team development and mission accomplishment. The mission of basic military training is vitally important - to mold and shape new Airmen from different locations, cultures and backgrounds into a cohesive team in only eight weeks. It is my opinion that our daily mission is equally as important - to forge combat mobility forces and deploy Airmen warriors. To do this takes a great deal of dedication, perseverance, adherence to and enforcement of standards.

Most often, big problems don't simply appear - they begin small and grow into big ones. Whether it's a minor dress and appearance standard, or a mission-impacting technical standard, they are critical to the effective functioning of our Air Force. Standards apply to every career field within the Air Force.

Think about the consequences of a food service worker not complying with proper food storage procedures. Think about a security forces Airman not properly following weapons clearing procedures. Think about an aircrew member not following a pre-flight checklist. Now think about what would happen if these standards violations were allowed to go uncorrected, what would be the consequence? The nature of our business is lethal, and if we don't enforce standards, we affect readiness and our ability to accomplish our mission to fly, fight and win. Our Airman's Creed also reminds us of our responsibility to "never falter, and never fail."