“Standards of Conduct, Character and Military Bearing” is a title familiar to us all as one of the enlisted performance report blocks. However, the term “standards” is much broader than that and includes all the rules and regulations that govern our daily lives as professional Airmen. Whether it is an Air Force Instruction, technical order, general policy letter, or doctrinal document, a standard for measurement can be applied to every aspect of our military careers. So what is a standard? What are we saying when someone fails to meet or exceed standards?
A standard is a level of quality or attainment and an idea or thing used as a measure, norm, or model in comparative evaluations. It’s easy to see how standards are defined and shaped through our core values and the enlisted force structure. We are the world’s best Air Force. However, we cannot achieve excellence or be truly among the best without established standards to guide our actions. Leaders at all levels must strive to develop Airmen who are disciplined, proud of their service and continuously strive for excellence.
Actions as simple as correcting an individual with an untucked physical training shirt, someone missing a cover at the gas station and/or not rendering proper courtesies to a staff vehicle on base illustrate the mindset we must all possess. However, to continuously improve our force we must cultivate a mindset that does not tolerate failure to meet standards.
A “zero mistake Air Force” is not the goal we should preach or imply, but a strong and persistent accountability for our actions must be maintained. When a member clearly exceeds standards they are recognized and rewarded for their performance. And when a member fails to meet standards, they must be identified and corrected. Lastly, the time may come when we must trim the fat in order to become a leaner, fitter Air Force.
Enforcement of standards is something Airmen at all levels are charged with.
The enlisted force structure states that junior enlisted Airmen must “detect and correct behavior that may place themselves or others at risk, be technically, physically and mentally ready to accomplish the mission, exhibit professional behavior, military bearing, respect for authority and high standards of dress and appearance on and off duty.”
Our force’s youngest members are charged with not only following these directives, but correcting violations in others. Today’s Airmen are tomorrow’s enlisted leaders, and the principles which guide them will determine if they succeed or fail. As such, these principles and standards are the foundation on which our Air Force is built.