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NEWS | Sept. 17, 2014

Stay Away from “The Bad Five”

By Maj. Samual Shimp 628th Comptroller Squadron commander

On June 30 of this year, I assumed command of the 628th Comptroller Squadron at Joint Base Charleston. That evening, after taking the guidon, I had to think long and hard about what I was going to say to the squadron the next day at my very first commander's call. As a leader of military, civilians and contractors, I certainly wanted to address the things that could possibly get them in trouble, and more importantly, what was going to keep them out of trouble. I ultimately went all the way back to 1992 to what my first supervisor, Buck Sergeant Scott Matheny told me -- and I've lived by it ever since.

He said, "Sam, remember to keep away from the Bad Five and you'll keep yourself alive and out of trouble."

Whether you're a young man or woman fresh out of high school, or already having served two or three decades in the military, these simple rules are as important now as they were 20 years ago.

Matheny's rules were to stay away from:

1. Bad people -- this person is going to use peer pressure on you to get you in trouble or injure you.
2. Bad times -- nothing good happens after midnight or lack of sleep.
3. Bad things -- those that are detrimental to your life and career, i.e., drugs, assault and alcohol related incidents.
4. Bad locations -- places that are dangerous or off-limits.
5. Bad communication -- saying things that are harmful to others or not saying something you should have.

This list of five things is not all inclusive, but I'm willing to argue that nearly every past and present UCMJ violation or mishap could be lumped into one or more of these simple categories.

Let me give you a real example that clearly violates several of these rules. A military member and one of their local civilian friends, both over 21 years old, decide to drive downtown after working a 12-hour shift to have a few drinks at a nightclub. The military member is you, a great worker that lives by your service's core values. The civilian driving is one of those people that looks for fights, bends the rules and always drives after a few drinks because they think they're in control.

Both of you have several drinks over a short period of time and close-down the club around two o'clock in the morning. So far nothing illegal, but you, the military member has to make a potential life and career changing decision. It's now time to get home and the local friend tells you he's good to drive. Applying the Bad Five rules could have been done earlier, but let's look at which ones are being violated at this point, and if recognized, could save the member's life and career.

Rule number one, bad people. People like this civilian friend should make the hair on the back of your neck stand-up. If he doesn't get you in a fight in the parking lot, he's likely to get you in a car accident on the way home.

Rule number two, bad times. It's well after midnight and neither of you have had very much sleep.

Rule number three, bad things. Drinking excessively and during a short period of time increases the potential for an alcohol related incident and also reduces your chances of recognizing any of the other rules.

Rule number four, bad locations. A nightclub is not necessarily a bad location by itself, however, when mixed with alcohol, other intoxicated individuals, and the time of night, it certainly can turn into one.
And Rule Number five, bad communication. This one falls into the category of not saying something you should, such as, "I'm calling Airmen against Drunk Driving," "Let's take a cab," or "My supervisor said he'd come get me if I ever needed a ride."

Recognizing these rules is not usually the challenge. The tough part is actually making decisions that will help you avoid them once recognized. If any of the Bad Five applies to an event going on in your life, think long and hard about how they can affect you in the near term, how they can affect those you love, how they can affect your safety and how it will affect your future in the military.

There's another quote Matheny drilled into me that I'll also never forget. "A thousand sorrys (sp) won't bring that career or life back."

So, I say to you, make those tough decisions where you won't have to say I'm sorry, and stay away from the Bad Five.