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The right thing to do

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Marc A. Walker
  • 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander
Last week, I took leave to go turkey hunting for the first time in Washington state. I've heard northwestern turkeys were more of a challenge to hunt over the southern/mid-western birds, but I was up for the challenge. However, I must report the score is still zero long beards in the freezer. Instead, I spent time reflecting on my biggest leadership challenge in today's Air Force.

I entered basic training in 1991, when in my opinion, the Air Force still believed in a checklist-oriented style of leadership. Directions from my first supervisor were communicated in a straight-forward manner, and I was held accountable for my actions. When I started my career in Strategic Air Command, there was a checklist for everything. My opinion was not included in any of the steps. Any screw ups warranted a trip to see the colonel and was quickly followed by decertification. I was required to take closed-book tests every month. I had to score 100 percent or be decertified. Failure was not an option. I was good with that way of doing business.

Early on I was taught a simple code: do it, because it is the right thing to do. If I had to work a 12-hour shift, I worked a 12-hour shift. If there was a squadron function, I attended it. If a retirement or award ceremony needed to be planned or worked, I got involved. However today, as a professional organization I feel we have lost the "right thing to do" attitude and transitioned into a culture of entitlement. Personally, I find it difficult to help an Airman that expects my support and encouragement without earning it.

As I sat under an old pine tree waiting for the ever-elusive northwestern gobbler, I asked myself a simple question. As a leader, how can I reverse this sense of entitlement and get back to the "right thing to do" attitude?

After some honest contemplation, I came to the truth. As a leader, I have also fallen victim to the same sense of entitlement I see in some of my Airmen. I want my Airmen to do the right thing, but I haven't taken the time to teach them the same code that I learned when I started. I expect them to already know it.

As leaders, we need to take time from our busy schedules to reflect and ask ourselves a question. Are we doing the right thing for our Airmen? Maybe it's time to go back to the basics. To communicate how to follow the checklists, hold our Airmen accountable or explain why it's in their best interest to look out for each other, their squadrons and our Air Force. Why? Simply, because it is the right thing to do.