Compliance with standards, enforcement
By Master Sgt. Dennis Schmitt, 9th Logistic Readiness first sergeant
/ Published March 22, 2012
BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
My son enlisted in the National Guard this past summer and will be heading to Basic Military Training after he graduates from High School in June. A couple of weeks ago while driving to see the movie "Act of Valor", I took the opportunity to impart some wisdom on my son about what to expect during his stay at Lackland AFB. Granted, it's been a couple of decades since I went through Basic, but the one thing I'm certain that hasn't changed is compliance with standards. Everything we did in Basic was expected to be done to a certain standard and we were consistently held to those standards. Completing Basic Training was a team effort and part of that effort was enforcing standards amongst ourselves. Life was considerably better when we made the corrections as opposed to the training instructor pointing out our mistakes.
One of the biggest changes since we graduated from Basic Training is that instead of a training instructor teaching the standards, we have to educate ourselves. One of the basic levels of knowledge that we are all required to know is AFI 36-2903, Dress and Appearance Standards. These standards impact our lives each and every day. It doesn't matter whether you're an Airman Basic or a Chief Master Sergeant; it is your responsibility to know these standards. If you don't know the standards it is hard to fulfill the core competency of "Excellence in all we do." You're not being very excellent if you don't know the standards and therefore can't enforce the standards. In my opinion, not enforcing a standard is as bad, if not worse than not knowing a standard. A person who knows the standards and chooses not to enforce them is derelict in the execution of their duties.
If you see a "Dress and Appearance" infraction, approach the individual in a tactful manner and have them correct it. The majority of the time you do this, it will be because the individual didn't know the standard. They will generally respond by saying they didn't know and thank you. In those rare instances where the individual is confrontational, if it is appropriate for your pay grade to handle it, handle it. If the confrontational individual is senior to you, use your chain of command and I assure you it will get handled. You will never be at fault for enforcing a standard.
Since I started talking about Basic Training, I'll finish with a story I told my son about an experience I had there. One evening I was selected to be the chow runner. Unless it's called something different now, my job was to enter the dining facility, report to the "Snake Pit" and request permission for my flight to enter the dining facility. I'll admit I was very nervous to be performing this task for the first time. I had witnessed numerous occasions of some poor Airman getting verbally drilled by the "Snake Pit" for failing to perform some part of his task to standard. I did my best to conceal my nervousness and reported to the "Snake Pit." I did it perfectly, spot-on, I nailed it! I executed my facing movements and proceeded to the exit. I was extremely excited that it went so well, so excited that I stepped outdoors and forgot to put my hat on. All my flight members were standing in formation looking at me with their eyes getting wider. At first I didn't understand why they were looking at me that way. They wanted to tell me to put my hat on, but being in formation they could only stand there in anticipation of the "education" I was about to receive from the training Instructor. I knew the standard, but failed to comply with the standard. The standards were enforced and I lived to share this story. Lesson learned!