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Time for taking personal responsibility is now

  • Published
  • By Col. Brad Ashley
  • 72nd Air Base Wing vice commander
When you look in the mirror in the morning, do you see an Airman that takes personal responsibility for their actions? Or is your first reaction when things don't go quite right to blame someone else?

As Airmen -- and to me that term includes our military, civilian and contractor members of our team -- we all depend on one another to perform to the best of our abilities, and to be personally prepared for every challenge we might face. Anything less could cost valuable American lives as we work to provide our warfighters with the best aerospace power equipment in the world. We also provide warfighters with a very valuable and precious asset -- Expeditionary Airmen with great attitudes and skills ready to perform at a moment's notice around the globe.

Of course, not all our actions are life and death, but they do have an effect on our community as a whole.

For example, in an earlier assignment, I was leaving a building and noticed an Airman throwing trash out of his car window. As you can imagine, he was pretty surprised when I tapped on his window and asked him to pick up his trash. Apparently, he was going to let someone else take care of his litter. If everyone took care of their own trash, there would be no need for base cleanup details. But to this Airman, keeping the base clean was someone else's job, not his.

The stakes get considerably higher when we talk about military readiness, which includes our medical readiness. Base Readiness Exercises typically show we can always do better when it comes to individual readiness and personal responsibility.

Time after time, people show up for their exercise deployment ill prepared and unable to deploy because they haven't taken the time, or the personal responsibility, to do what it takes to be ready. In some cases, their shot records aren't up to date; in others, they haven't completed their self-aid buddy care training. Some Airmen haven't been trained fully on the M-9, others aren't up to speed on the proper wear of their gas mask. These issues present unnecessary challenges to the deployment line process.

Who is to blame for these individuals not being ready? Is it their supervisor, who didn't give them enough time to focus on these requirements? Is it their unit deployment manager, who hasn't sufficiently explained every deployment requirement to them and scheduled every class? Is it their commander? While these people play important roles in their unit members' development, the answer to these questions is clearly "No."

Ultimately, all Airmen are responsible for their actions. Being deployment ready is the responsibility of everyone who wears the uniform, and not because they might be tested during an inspection or exercise, but because we are a nation at war, and their job very well could call for them to deploy into harm's way. When that happens, no excuse in the world will save an Airman who is ill prepared. Personal responsibility encompasses many areas: dress and appearance, warfighting skills, equipment and attitude.

It is the personal responsibility of every Air Force member to know the Airmen's Manual inside and out. The Airmen's Manual is a terrific tool filled with knowledge that will help develop war fighting skills. Some people get complacent, and think that there's no need for them to learn every entry in the manual when they can just look it up. Those people could not be more wrong, because, again, they could find themselves in a war zone, a long way from their assigned base, facing an enemy that doesn't allow open book exams.

It's also our individual responsibility to keep up to date on our professional training, whether military or civilian, and to learn and apply continuous process improvement tools, such as AFSO21, Six Sigma and Lean tools. As we face the personnel and budget challenges ahead, we'll need every tool in the bag to ensure our mission operations are successful.

Every Airman has a personal responsibility to look for ways to improve our processes, to be fully trained to meet any challenge, and to be the very best member of our Air Force team they can be. Anything less is unacceptable.

So take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself, "Do I take personal responsibility. Am I ready to deploy today? Is my medical readiness up to date? Am I ready for a no-notice inspection?" If the answers are no, you better get busy, because in today's challenging world, we are relying on you.