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NEWS | Feb. 21, 2013

Who me? Yes, you! Couldn’t be! Then, who?

By Master Sgt. Tiffany Robinson 17th Airlift Squadron first sergeant

Not adhering to the Air Force standards is a direct violation of your individual responsibilities regarding uniformity and our Air Force image.

As a young Security Forces Airman, I was often approached by higher ranking members within my chain of command (and sometimes outside of my chain) in regards to dress and appearance standards. Their initial approach would be a mild rebuke or subtle chastisement about how I had blatantly disregarded Air Force Instruction 36-2903 (Air Force Dress and Appearance) by wearing overly eccentric and/or faddish hairstyles, or even about how my uniform did not meet the intent of the AFI because I had it tailored "too" perfectly (meaning- the overly "snug" uniform should not silhouette my shape in that manner.)

Eventually, these "not adhering to AF standards" talks became more frequent and quite burdensome. Finally, I reached my breaking point: I had enough of being "picked" on for just wanting to be me! I mean, although we are smaller parts of a larger force, we are still entitled to our individuality, right? Wrong.

Somehow my external sight picture had become an internal one which solely focused on the 'me' in team. And, although my work performance was stellar, these repetitively negative gaps in judgment began to overshadow the positives I had worked so hard to obtain. Then one day in an emotional rant, I went and spoke with one of my mentors. Just as the tears of what I deemed "individuality injustice" began to fall he said, "Do you want to be recognized for your productivity and duty performance versus your lapse in judgment?"

"Yes, Sir," I said.

"Well, then you must apply self-discipline to ALL areas of your life and Air Force career. Adhering to standards CANNOT be selective," he replied.

He went on to quote AFI 1-1: "When you took the oath of enlistment, you agreed to live by a set of military rules and standards which embody our AF core values." At that moment, the core value "Service Before Self" formed a banderole around my mind and my light switch had finally come on. My mentor did not have to say another word because I realized that my small picture was an intricate detail in a much larger portrait.

As I thanked my mentor for his time and began my departure from his office, his words continuously replayed in my head. Specifically, the parts about adhering to standards NOT being selective and AF core values rang the loudest. Once I made it back to my cubicle, I pulled up e-publications and began reading AFI 1-1. One of my (now) favorite excerpts reiterates what my mentor relayed. It reads: "Our core values define our standards of conduct. Our standards of conduct define how Airmen should behave when interacting with others and when confronting challenges in the environment in which we live and work." (United States Air Force Core Values, January 1, 1997.)

Understanding the value and magnitude of "service before self" helped me realize that when I took my oath enlistment, the individual within me became a part of something much greater around me. I, just like each of you, had become a unique, specialized force that is recognized for its standards, uniformity, and unity of effort.
In closing, during his recent visit to JB Charleston, Gen. Paul Selva, Air Mobility Command commander said, "The harder right will always produce better results than the easier wrong." So with that in mind, each day we must ask ourselves, 'Who Me?' Am I positively or negatively impacting the Air Force image? Can I possibly damage the larger Air Force image by not adhering to standards?

Every time the answer will be, 'Yes, YOU!'

Your latter response might be 'Couldn't be'... but I challenge you to make a difference. Because, if not you, "Then, who?"