KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. — The national news has been quite captivating lately. I’m referring to that astounding discovery of three young women – missing 10 years — in an otherwise ordinary Cleveland suburb. Because abductions don’t often result in such a positive outcome, this particular story was pretty wonderful.
I just can’t help pointing out that this situation, in particular, provides all of us an outstanding opportunity to learn a very valuable lesson.
Consider the comments made by Charles Ramsey, the next door neighbor who helped facilitate the escape of the three women. He described moving into the neighborhood a year before and befriending Ariel Castro, the man who kidnapped and held the women captive for all those years.
When Ramsey was interviewed by investigators, he said, “He was a fun guy. I mean, parents trusted him. He talked to parents. He was just a regular guy on the street. He put on that great mask that everyone thought he was a good guy.”
Later, Ramsey was interviewed for a segment on “Good Morning America.” He responded to the talk show host’s questions in his now-familiar humble, self-deprecating style. When asked whether he had noticed anything unusual in his neighbor’s behavior over the course of the past year, he admitted he hadn’t. He paused, then stated, “Either I’m that stupid or his kind is that good.”
Or his kind is that good.
Ramsey’s comment, in fact, is frighteningly accurate. Castro’s kind is that good. They feel safe, ordinary, even kind. They can be charismatic and genuine and charming. They appear to be the kind of people that you would trust with your car, your house, and yes – even your kids. These are the very traits that make “his kind” so dangerous.
As leaders it is critical to understand that you cannot pick out these people when you meet them. I can guarantee that there are some of you reading this right now, saying to yourself… “Maybe most people can’t, but I can. My gut never fails me. I can always tell when one of my Airmen is lying to me.”
If this sounds like you, be very careful. The folks who stand to perpetrate the most damage often look the best. They are smooth, pleasant, polite and don’t make waves. They blend in. We like them, usually a lot. So, if and when you should look further into a concern about an Airman, don’t allow that person’s stellar work performance, engaging charm, reassurances, regular church attendance, volunteer work, direct eye contact, number of friends, poise under pressure and so on divert you from what you need to do.