There I was…A Chief’s War Story

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- I'm not good at telling "war stories" but I know they usually start with "There I was." So I'll try that.

There I was...attending many Airman Leadership School (ALS) graduations, serving on a lot of ALS and Airman Professional Enhancement Course panels, and interacting with ALS students over the "long haul" as the class mentor.

A common theme I continue to hear as well as express to senior airman is that, as they transition to the noncommissioned officer tier, it's imperative that they enforce the standards. On the Enlisted Performance Report (AB-TSgt), under block 2, Standards, Conduct, Character and Military Bearing, it states "For SSgt/TSgt also consider enforcement of standards." So this theme is on the day-to-day flight schedule but do we provide the proper airspace for them to have successful sorties?

Shortly after I arrived at Hill, there I was in military clothing sales. When I entered, an officer stuck out like a sore thumb because he walked around with his sunglasses propped on top of his forehead. I thought to myself that even the most average airman knows that sunglasses are to be worn in the manner for which they were made, so I concluded that he just lost his situational awareness. Serving as his wingman I kindly pointed out that his glasses were on top of his head. Then the dogfight started.

He immediately began telling me that he was in a rush, just needing to quickly search the shelves (implying he needed both hands) and that he didn't have a place for his glasses. In my head I'm thinking...really sir? With all those flight suit pockets you can't find a place for your sunglasses? The dogfight soon ended and I scored the victory but the dogfight days weren't over.

One day, there I was with my fellow command chief and wingman, Chief Dave Nordel. We noticed a lady, dressed in Air Force Physical Training gear, playing racquetball with her safety glasses on top of her forehead. We thought to ourselves that even the most average airman knows that safety glasses are to be worn when playing racquetball, so we concluded that she just lost her situational awareness. Serving as her wingmen we kindly pointed out that her safety glasses needed to be worn when playing. Then the dogfight started.

She looked disgusted that we'd even mention it, but she reluctantly corrected herself. We left to finish our workout, and as we began to leave the gym we noticed that she was, once again, playing with her safety glasses on top of her forehead. Apparently the dogfight wasn't over.

We tapped on the glass; she looked at us, turned her back and ignored us. In my head I'm thinking...really ma'am? Do you think we're just going to go away? The dogfight soon ended and we scored the victory. I can safely say that I've scored enough victories to be deemed a "flying ace" but why the dogfights?

Self-adherence to basic military standards should be an easy kill for all of us. If a wingman appears in your airspace there's no need to hostilely engage. Receiving flak is never any fun. For me it doesn't produce much battle damage but for that senior airman or NCO, it only takes one dogfight to potentially ground themselves, and we cannot afford to let that happen.

We need all of us to be looking out for each other, and we certainly need people, at all levels, who are willing and comfortable with enforcing standards because there will always be people who just lose situational awareness, aren't aware of the standards, or just like pushing the standards or blatantly disregarding them. In each case, the opportunity to serve as a wingman and help someone else exists.

Bring credit and honor to the United States Air Force as you take care of each other in all your actions.