Be Bold – it’s an Air Force Tradition!
By John Briner, 7th Munitions Squadron
/ Published March 26, 2013
DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- In recent years, I've been accused of being "too honest" when it comes to feedback. This tendency is likely a result of having more on my plate than in the past, less time to play around with, or maybe it's just that I'm less patient than I used to be or quite probably a combination of all three.
As a result, I'm pretty quick on the trigger to provide feedback on something that I disagree with or that I believe is incorrect. When I'm providing feedback, I focus on being respectful and understanding - after all, maybe what I'm taking issue with was that person's idea, and they're pretty proud of it!
However, I believe it is my obligation to let people know when something doesn't seem right--especially people in my chain of command, who rely on timely, accurate information to make decisions. After all, I expect people to be up front and honest with me, tell me the truth, even if it hurts.
Years ago, as a young Airman 1st Class, I was anything but bold. It wasn't that I was opposed to confrontation, but I was certainly less sure of myself. I was more likely to let something slide than I was to step up and call someone out for being out of compliance. As time went on and I felt more comfortable with my place in the Air Force, it became clear that what my parents had told me all along is true - honesty really is the best policy. It's just that sometimes generating the courage to have those conversations is very difficult.
It's important to remember that boldness is an Air Force tradition. One of airpower's heroes, Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell, took a bold stand for what he believed and publicly disagreed with his superiors (of course, he was court-martialed for it, so good judgment applies, there's usually more than one way to get your point across.) Think about some Air Force heroes, leaders like Pitsenbarger, Levitow, Doolittle, LeMay or Olds, they saved lives and made history by thinking and acting boldly.
Yet, "boldness" doesn't necessarily have to include a physical act of courage. In fact, I think in many ways it's more difficult to be courageous in interpersonal relationships, when you could lose friends or "cool points" because you're making an unpopular, but correct, decision. Doing the right thing sounds easy, but can be very painful. Yet, it's imperative that we make the tough calls, we owe it to ourselves, our troops and our Air Force.
Of course, once you've stood up and done the right thing, don't forget to follow through. If you brought some concerns to your supervisor and were told "thanks for your input, but we're still doing it" you need to press on and carry out your boss' orders. When you're a supervisor and your troop doesn't take your advice and continues down the wrong path, then it's up to you to do the right thing and give them the performance rating or disciplinary action that they've earned.
We rely on each other to do the right thing, even when no one is watching. Be bold, decisive and make the tough calls ... it's our tradition!