Culture of correcting standards

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Brian Randolph
  • 46th Test Wing command chief
Do our Airmen set and correct standards on a day-to-day basis? In the Air Force, do we have the "culture of correcting standards?"

I think we do a great job in correcting each other with regard to our specific career field tasks. However, we don't do a very good job at correcting standards that make us good Airmen. Proper Airmanship is correcting each other about things such as "your sideburns are too long," "take your sunglasses off the top of your head," "tuck your PT shirt in," "why didn't you pay proper respect to the flag," and so on.

I expect non-commissioned officers and senior NCOs to correct these standard violations. I especially expect for us to set a standard for our subordinates to correct standard violations.

These "good" Airmanship standards may seem trivial or unimportant, but nothing could be farther from the truth. If we can't count on our Airmen to follow these seemingly small things, how can we, as leaders, count on them to follow the big things?

If we can't count on each other to make the right decision on a small "Airmanship" standard, how can we be counted on to make the right decision when it's a big decision; when lives could be at stake? The simple answer is we can't.

When we see a group of Airmen together and one of them is out of standard, we should correct that individual. We should also confront the most senior in the group and counsel that individual as well for not doing what is expected. This will go a long way in promoting the culture of correcting standards.

I often ask Airman Leadership School and NCOA students, 'who has more authority an Army E-6, Marine E-6 or an Air Force E-6?' Most of the time someone says the Army or Marine E-6 has more authority. Why do our Air Force NCOs think NCOs from other branches of the military have more authority? It's because over time, we chose not to use the authority given us by our commanders and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Every time we choose to walk by, ignore, or push up to the next level something we should correct ourselves, we are giving our authority away or eroding it.

There is a problem when our NCOs don't think they have the authority to correct and fix standards. We have to fix this. It's partly our fault as senior enlisted leaders. If we have not given our expectations to our junior NCOs to correct others and use their authority, we have contributed to their lack of the culture of correcting standards.

We have to tell our NCOs we expect them to correct others. We have to have their back when they do. We have to show them how to confront and correct. We have to show them how to correct with compassion and authority, but not necessarily coming off the top rope (so to speak.) Retired Air Force Materiel Command commander Gen. Gregory Martin said if we see a discrepancy or problem "we are obligated to fix it."

The bottom line is we have to stop giving our authority away. We must set the expectation of allowing our subordinate Airmen to correct each other and their subordinates.

When our E-4s have the mindset to take care of themselves and the enlisted below them and our E-3s have the mindset to take care of themselves and all E-2s and E-1s below them, we will be on our way to improving the culture of correcting standards.