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Standards Bearer

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Steve McDonald
  • 451st Air Expeditionary Wing Command Chief
Standards are important. They are vital. Most of you know how to define a standard. Standards are those established principles, rules, habits that are used as a basis for judgment. There is another definition of the word standard.

Dictionary.com defines a standard as a flag, emblematic figure, or other object raised on a pole to indicate the rallying point of an army or fleet.

I would like to try to provide a mental picture for you. Think back to history lessons or movies you have seen regarding the Revolutionary War or the Civil War. One movie that comes to mind is The Patriot, which starred Mel Gibson. During these wars, opposing armies marched across a battle field toward one another. With the warfare practices of the era, the armies marched in ranks and columns and shot at one another as they neared. One thing of critical importance to the armies was their flag. There was always a person toward the front of the charge that carried the flag, or standard. This person was the standard-bearer. On the battlefield, being a standard-bearer was a permanent charge. But what happened if the person responsible for carrying the standard was shot? In that situation, another person would lay down their arms and take the place of the standard-bearer. It was important that the flag, or standard, always remained upright. It was symbolic of the principles for which the armies were fighting.

From the early dawn in 1814 when Francis Scott Key saw the flag flying over Fort McHenry, to the historic raising of the flag by five Marines and a Navy corpsman on Iwo Jima, to the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks when firefighters in New York flew a flag from the wreckage of the World Trade Center, the flag, or standard, continues to be a symbol for people to rally around, a symbol of hope. Keeping the standard raised high has always been vital to our nation's preservation.

I think in today's military, keeping our standards raised high is also vital to our preservation. Our Air Force has seen too many examples of people not upholding standards on a grand scale. In the past couple of years, there have been numerous Air Force leaders who were relieved of command or positions based on failure to uphold standards, both procedurally and personally. Compliance and standards have become watchwords in our effort to reestablish credibility in the Air Force.

Just as people were permanently charged as standard-bearers in early American conflicts, we need standard-bearers today. People who will strive to uphold our standards. People who understand that standards are necessary. People who are not afraid or apologetic about enforcing standards. People who understand the importance of personal integrity and leading by example. People who are willing to lay down their own conveniences and comfort to raise the standard if it has fallen.

Please do not limit the impact of this thought to someone not wearing their uniform correctly. It goes without saying that wearing a uniform within standards is important. But there are so many other things that require constant attention: following checklists, standard operating procedures, AFI-compliance, basic considerations, cleanliness, safety, morality, integrity, timeliness and resource management.

Will you carry the flag?