Every decision counts

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Bradley Ward
  • 9th Reconnaissance Wing
Your Personnel Information File is probably in a locked cabinet somewhere in your commander's front office. The commander's support staff maintains and keeps them ready for review by supervisors, first sergeants, superintendents and commanders. Lots of documentation finds its way into your PIF over the course of your career: in-processing checklists, TDY orders, letters of appreciation and letters of counseling. The folder is divided into two parts: general information and derogatory information.

I recently reviewed two PIFs from members who arrived in the squadron in the same month. Aside from the labels and standard HIPAA coversheets, these two folders were completely different. Airman A's folder was nearly empty; PCS orders, an in processing checklist, a letter of appreciation for helping with the Children's Holiday Party and a fitness report with the word "Excellent" colored with bright pink highlighter. Airman B's folder was heavier. Unfortunately, most of the weight difference was on the left side of the folder under the "Derogatory Information" coversheet: Two traffic citations, speeding and failure to stop, a stack of papers related to a one-time Career Development Course failure, a failed dorm inspection and a letter of counseling for failure-to-go (probably not the first). Both members were qualified at their jobs. Both members met standards for PT. One of them is no longer in the Air Force.

In hindsight, Airman B's string of bad luck was really a pattern of poor decision making and an attitude that "some rules don't need to be followed." The DUI that finally triggered Airman B's involuntary discharge just followed the pattern.

Every decision counts and is a reflection of your core values. A person that follows the rules doesn't speed. A selfless person is considerate of their co-workers and shows up to work on time. A person of excellence doesn't settle for the minimum, but pursues the "A", the 90%, and the "Excellent."