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Open Ranks: Airmen see, Airmen do...

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Stacy Fowler
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
I know the phrase is supposed to be "monkey see, monkey do," but I think our Airmen are a lot smarter than the smartest monkey (Planet of the Apes doesn't count; that's just Hollywood magic and a lot of CGI).

But the underlying premise is there: our Airmen emulate us, so we need to be sure to keep to our rules, regs and Core Values: Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence In All We Do.

The younger Airmen look to us as leaders to follow, and if we're leading them down a spiral of not-adhering-to-standards badness, it's going to be tough to make them stay within regulations.

I'll be the first to admit that I always try to do the right thing, but sometimes even I'm a little late in the mornings because I've hit the snooze button one (or three) too many times, or I'm not as professional as I need to be and will blurt out a four-letter word in front of my troops.

It comes back to "Airmen See, Airmen Do." If I do it, they'll do it too, and that could get them into trouble on down the line; not every supervisor is like me, and their next boss could be a real by-the-book, straight-laced type.

Airmen see us doing it wrong, so they assume it's okay and will do it too. Then they are surprised when they get corrected by me or someone else. We are setting up our Airmen for failure when we show them the wrong way, then turn around and tell them they're wrong when they copy us.

In a deployed environment, it's even more important that we lead the way. I'm not talking about the job; you know your job and I know mine, and unless it looks totally wrong or unsafe I can't judge if you're following the TOs, regs or owner's manuals.

I'm talking about the little things: reflective belts at night, keeping hands out of your pockets, wearing seatbelts...stuff like that. If you have a group of Airmen, NCOs and officers walking around at night, and not one person (or that token one person) is wearing a reflective belt, who should be counseled?

Some would say the answer is the Airmen, and that "they should know and already do the right thing." That's only a quater true; the main answer is the supervisor, leader or wingman who just let it slide or didn't correct it immediately.

How should Airmen "know" if something is right or wrong? This is especially important when they see their leadership NOT doing the right thing.

Airmen see, Airmen do.

If an Airman gets called out, six times out of 10 the excuse of "my supervisor was doing it" is the first thing that comes out of their mouth (the other four is "I didn't know," but that's also laid at the feet of their leadership). What's interesting is I've also heard those excuses coming out of the mouths of NCO and officers as well - and these are the people who should know better!

I'm not the only one who notices these things. Chief Master Sgt. Kenui Balutski, our wing command chief, sends out the occasional "Did You Know?" e-mail because he sees something around base that has become, or is becoming, an issue. It's directed at everyone, but we as supervisors should take a moment to ask "am I doing this?" or "am I allowing it?" right along with "are my Airmen doing this?"

If they are - the next question should be: is this a case of Airmen See, Airmen Do?