KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — In the military we constantly refer to “the standard.” Most standards are developed within Air Force Instructions or technical orders. They are what sets us apart from our civilian counterparts.
Webster’s dictionary defines a standard as “something established by authority, custom, or general consent as a model, or example.” We weigh our performance reports and sometimes administrative actions off of our ability to meet the standard.
As a first sergeant, I consistently find myself reminding Air Force members from all Air Force Specialty Codes of the standards. Most times I get a similar response; the member corrects the action and continues on.
Sometimes I get asked, “Shirt, is it really that big of a deal to have my hands in my pockets?” I ask you, is it?
What or whom will be impacted by the staff sergeant or captain with their hands in their pockets? Honestly, probably no one.
Ultimately, what it comes down to is, which standard is OK to deviate from? Air Force instruction 36-2903 Dress and Personal Appearance, was developed to provide us with guidance on how to maintain a professional image at all times.
How we wear our uniform is not only important to how the population of our great nation views us, but also how we pay respect to the men and women who have worn it before us and will continue to wear it long after we are all gone.
In my humble opinion, there should be no standard too small to enforce. Whether it is in a uniform standard, a security forces instruction, or a technical order that tells our maintainers the correct torque specification to prevent catastrophic failure while our pilots are in flight; all standards are developed to ensure mission success.
One of my mentors in the Air Force, retired Chief Master Sgt. Atticus Smith, used to put it to me in a manner that has stuck with me ever since.
“When we begin to pick and choose what standards we will enforce, we begin to accept mediocrity as the standard,” Smith said. “When mediocrity becomes the standard is when the mission will fail.”
I ask you now, why is it a big deal to enforce the standard?