Commentary

November 22, 2013

First Sergeant stresses importance of on-the-spot corrections

Master Sgt. Shane Wacaster
823rd Maintenance Squadron first sergeant

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev.  — A senior NCO asked me about five months ago if I had some time to discuss some [Airmen] issues.

“Sure, let’s discuss it over lunch,” I replied. “I’ll meet you at the food court.”

To my surprise the member asked if we could go somewhere else, and said that he avoids the food court like the plague. I laughed and told him the food wasn’t that bad to which he responded it wasn’t the food but rather the lack of standards showcased by service members there. The person couldn’t stand watching it.

I asked if he made corrections himself. He replied that he did, but the amount of discrepancies seemed overwhelming. He found it hard to keep up. The senior NCO said he just wanted to eat, but that he felt guilty if he didn’t correct violations when he saw them.

We spoke for a while on the topic and I walked away with a fresh perspective. As a first sergeant, I correct standards all the time; it’s part of my job. Now when I go to the food court, I purposely observe how many others “look the other way.” It’s shameful.

I was in the food court the other day and left my meal to instruct a technical sergeant to remove his sunglasses from the top of his head. The technical sergeant was sitting at a table with five or six other Airmen and NCOs. The food court was packed with patrons, at least half of whom were in uniform. Am I the only one that noticed?

“I was wondering if anyone was going to say anything to that individual,” a civilian retiree said afterward, so apparently not.

Why don’t we say anything? I actually ask that question from time to time when I make a correction to whoever happens to be with the offender. I will ask something like, “Why didn’t you tell them they couldn’t?” The most common reply usually is, “I was going to, really.”

Feigning ignorance is only hurting your case with a first sergeant. My favorite reply is, “It doesn’t say anything in an [Air Force Instruction].”

Airmen may have questions concerning dress and appearance. Can the sage green watch cap be worn without an outer garment? Can the sage green watch cap be pulled snugly over your head with no fold? Am I allowed to iron my Airman Battle Uniform?

Would you believe that most of these rules are relatively new? AFIs change all the time and it’s up to all of us to see what’s changed because, let’s face it, the Air Force is always going to change. I guarantee you an Airman coming out of technical school right now is going to see a completely different Air Force by the time you retire.

We need to accept change because it’s what makes us great. Change is what allowed us to become a separate branch of service in the first place. Until those changes are official we must comply.

‘I will never leave an Airman behind,’ is a saying that we as Airmen follow but that’s exactly what we’re doing if we do not ensure our fellow Airmen understand it’s the little things that cause us to lose our discipline. Our mission requires us to follow instructions regardless of how we personally feel because of the bottom-line nature of what we do. The next time you correct standards, consider yourself a mentor, a leader and a wingman that will never falter and will not fail.




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