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A sense of entitlement

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Steve McDonald
  • 451st Air Expeditionary Wing Command Chief
Have you ever given much thought to entitlements? Wikipedia defines entitlement as "a guarantee of access to benefits because of rights or by agreement through law." Wikipedia goes on to say "It also refers, in a more casual sense, to someone's belief that one is deserving of some particular reward or benefit."

A sense of entitlement generally carries a negative connotation, but entitlements aren't necessarily bad. I'm sure you've either heard or used the phrase "I'm entitled to my opinion." I would venture that there are certain things that we all think we are entitled to. As a father, I am entitled to respect and common courtesy from my children. As a husband, I am entitled to share my wife's opinion. As a military member, I am entitled to monthly pay, "three hots and a cot" (as so eloquently spoken by Tech. Sgt. Pamela Bell), and a retirement paycheck (eventually).

But what about those who think they deserve things just because? Have you ever heard of the "Entitlement Generation?" According to, the Entitlement Generation is the group born between 1979 and 1994 who believe they are owed certain rights and benefits without further justification. I have had some introduction to the study of "generations" and have come to realize that there are substantial differences in thinking, work ethic, and sense of responsibility between the generations. I have also come to realize that it's important to understand those differences. I'm not sure I will ever embrace the differences in generations, but I do need to understand them.

I see a lot of younger people who fit this description. Maybe this all started when everyone on the youth soccer team started getting trophies and individual awards were discouraged. Maybe it started when Generation X parents wanted to make sure their children had the stuff they were deprived. I will admit that it almost seems counter-culture teaching my children that they have to work hard and earn the toys and gadgets they want and that every other child seems to have. This generation is definitely vastly different than the one I grew up in.

What about the Airmen in the Air Force today? Do our new Airmen have a sense of entitlement? There are many people who say they do. And I am one of them. But I am not talking about entitlements that they don't deserve. I am talking about entitlements our Airmen deserve, but don't get all the time.

Our Airmen are entitled to top-notch training in their career field. Our Airmen are entitled to good supervision and performance feedback. I have heard far too many instances of Airmen who have never received performance feedbacks. How can we expect them to know what is required of them without proper feedback? Our Airmen are entitled to clear direction and firm guidance. Who will set and uphold the standards that need to be passed to the next generation to ensure the good order and discipline inherent with service in the armed forces? Our Airmen are entitled to appreciation and respect.

After all, according to a periodic survey commissioned by the Pentagon, only 15 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds are eligible to enlist in the military. Of those eligible, only a small percentage make the decision to commit a period of their lives in service to our country.

I hope our Airmen have a sense of entitlement when it comes to these areas. I also hope those in positions to secure these entitlements for our Airmen do their part. Provide the training, give timely feedback, enforce standards and be grateful for the outstanding young people who choose to become Airmen.