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Ways to correct correctly

  • Published
  • By Capt. Regina Reyes
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Company Grade Officers Council
Sometime between the years 1705 and 1711, well-known English poet Alexander Pope penned the famous line, "To err is human; to forgive, divine" in his poem, An Essay on Criticism. While I like the idea of forgiveness (and Lord knows I've erred many a time in my life), I would like to offer a slight twist on this quote: "To err is human; to correct, divine."

Ask yourself, how many times have you walked past a problem without saying something? How many times have you known someone was doing something wrong, but just chose to ignore it? If we simply "forgive" or turn a blind eye every time we see something that isn't right, then the behavior is essentially encouraged and it will continue to happen. Correction does not just fall on the shoulders of officers or senior NCOs, however. It is the responsibility of every Airman to identify the problems and correct them in a professional manner.

Over the course of my career, I have made corrections and I have been corrected. I've had positive experiences that I learned from, and negative experiences that I'll never forget. One particular unforgettable experience happened when I was a first lieutenant. I was walking through a BX parking lot and distractedly passed a captain without saluting. I don't recall now what I was doing that had distracted me from rendering the proper courtesies. But what I do recall is the way the captain berated me for the missed salute in front of his buddies rather than pulling me aside to handle it unobtrusively. Yes, I needed the correction; however, the unprofessional manner in which that captain addressed my error has left an indelible impression on me of how not to handle such situations.

Sometimes making corrections can be slightly uncomfortable - I found this out firsthand when I had to ask a female to remove her navel piercing while at the CC pool. I believe the correct way to correct is to not call more attention to the error than necessary. Whether she was intentionally wearing her piercing or not, I chose to take a less aggressive tack by discreetly saying "I'm not sure if you knew this or not, but you're not allowed to wear that piercing out here." Instead of giving me attitude, she was thankful that I brought it to her attention and promptly removed it without further issue. While this might not be the reaction you get from everyone you correct, you still have an obligation to address the behavior. And if you are met with attitude, that's just one more thing that requires correction.

There are many opportunities to make corrections on this installation and many chances for us to practice Wingmanship and professionalism. Whether it's a reflective belt worn like a beauty pageant sash (instead of around the waist) or an untucked PT shirt in the fitness center or on the way to the Cadillac, we can't just let these infractions go unnoticed or uncorrected. Don't walk around with your eyes focused on the ground; instead, walk with your head up and take pride in upholding and enforcing the standards that have been set forth for us. As one of our wing themes states: "Demand a culture of excellence, accountability and constant improvement." Make corrections in an educational and professional manner so that the person you correct will see it in a positive way and in turn assist someone else.

And if you are the one being corrected, don't take offense. Remember that we all make mistakes, but it's how we learn and adjust from those mistakes that define us.