Commentary

December 13, 2013

The dirty dollar

Master Sgt. ERIC GRAY
56th Security Forces Squadron

Have you ever glanced down at the ground to see the distinct green of a crisp, clean dollar bill? I am willing to bet if you did, you would have picked it up.

The question is if that dollar was crumpled up and dirty, would you have picked it up anyway? Would you have straightened it out, brushed the dirt off and put it back into circulation? Or would you have left it on the ground because keeping it would have been too much work? By this I mean it would involve bending down, picking it up and cleaning it off. That is a lot of work, right? Indeed, I think not.

What I’m getting at is the value of a dollar stays the same, regardless of its appearance. Most don’t throw away a dollar simply because it is damaged goods. But why is it then some of us are willing to give up and throw away an Airman simply because he or she made a mistake and for one brief instance did not fit the image we wanted?

Some dollars are damaged so badly they are no longer accepted as legal tender. Sometimes Airmen also must be cast aside. This is a regrettable truth. However, that step needs to come after providing proper leadership, guidance and mentoring. Not just from senior leadership, but from our junior NCOs as well. If you have given that Airman the proper tools and he or she fails to comply with standards, then by all means show them the door. Don’t be that leader who gives up as soon as the dollar starts falling.

Let me tell you about a young Airman who walked out of his commander’s office after losing a stripe.

He made a mistake that could have easily cost him his career. Many leaders dropped that dollar and refused to look back. They were trying to show him the door, but not all of them. There were a few who stuck their necks out and gave that Airman a second chance. A few welcomed him with open arms.

They sat him down and were refreshingly honest.

He knew he had two options. Option one was to let that mistake define his career, and he would be out the door before he could say, “Hey, wait … what happened?” Or option two was to move past that mistake, become a productive Airman again and show the world he was worth saving. With the help of some great leadership, this Airman chose option two.

If you haven’t guessed, that Airman was me. I decided I was going to prove the naysayers wrong, and I refused to disappoint those who showed faith in me.

Now I make a concerted effort to guide Airmen under my purview and even those outside of it.

Occasionally some stray to the “dark side.” Sorry, I can’t write something without at least one Star Wars reference. If you know me, you know why.

My goal is to bring them back to the light and give them the same two options I was given. I hate to lose a single one, but I do not shy away from making those tough decisions when it’s time to do so. I know not all can be saved, but, I also know some can.

Don’t throw away that dollar if it can be cleaned up and put back into circulation. That dirty dollar you toss may be the one that buys that winning lottery ticket.




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