by Chief Master Sgt. Cynthia M. Solomito
AFGLSC Command Chief
Have you ever walked through a store parking lot in uniform and had someone stop you to say, “Thank you for your service”? Have you walked through the airport in uniform while deploying and had other travelers stop and shake your hand? As military members we represent our units, our service and each other. Military members stand out in a crowd.
One day I experienced a different situation. I was driving to work and stopped at the local gas station to get gas. As I was standing by my SUV at the pumps, I saw a car pull into a parking spot by the store. An Airman jumped out of a car with just his t-shirt and ABU pants, no shirt and no hat. Before I could do anything, he came out with a cup of coffee and package of cigarettes, jumped in his car and took off. As fate would have it, he had a pretty recognizable car so I asked the first sergeants if any of them knew the Airman. He was attending Airman Leadership School. My plan was to stop by ALS and just talk to him for minute. It’s funny how we know when we have done something wrong (what is the definition of integrity?) because as soon as he saw me he knew what I was going to say. The conversation was short and I asked one question: why? Does the answer really matter? He knew it was wrong and made the choice to disregard our dress and appearance standards. Some Airmen would turn their head and not address the issue. Do two wrongs make a right?
I believe we live in a fishbowl and our behavior is watched where ever we go. Our country places high standards on the men and women of the United States military and they expect us to be above reproach at all times. You never know who is looking. Let’s face it — with technological advancements over the past years, nothing is secret. Look at the YouTube videos, cell phone pictures and Facebook conversations that find their way into the media. The military has been in the news quite a lot the past year with our people displaying some questionable behaviors. One bad act can completely ruin our image and overshadow all the wonderful things our men and women have accomplished. Are we ready to face the consequences of our actions?
So what is my point? We are an all volunteer force; no one can make us enlist. When we are at basic military training we learn standards and are taught the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. When we have doubts, we even have an Airmen’s Owner’s Manual, otherwise known as AFI 36-2618, The Enlisted Force Structure. Beyond what we have been taught we need to do the right thing and hold the line. Ask yourself, “Would my actions make my mother, father, sister, brother, spouse or fellow Airmen happy?”