Responsible choices, maturity

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- It's Tuesday morning, and there's a technical sergeant sitting at his desk outside of my office rapidly going through his third bag of sunflower seeds since Monday. Having also finished off several bags of Gummi Bears, you may think the sergeant has an issue with his weight and that this article is about physical fitness. Wrong on both accounts. The sergeant has no problem passing his fitness test and other than the fact that he smokes, he is in great shape. This article is about personal responsibility.

When I said the sergeant smokes, I mis-spoke. He used to smoke. The reason he's eating sunflower seeds and Gummi Bears is to help him get through his smoking cessation. So how does quitting smoking connect to personal responsibility? Good question. He is quitting, not only because smoking is unhealthy for him, but because he has a young child.

He is making a choice to be responsible for the health and welfare of his family. He wants his child to grow up healthy and he wants to be there. He understands that his actions affect others; sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly.

Contrast this story to the e-mail our wing commander sent to each of us on Monday. This wing had three driving while under the influence cases and one alcohol rated incident in a single weekend: four Airmen who failed to take personal responsibility or control their actions.

They allowed themselves to drink to the point that personal responsibility meant nothing to them. No responsibility to follow the law or our Air Force Instructions. No responsibility to remotely care about other Airmen or civilians they put at risk when getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking alcohol. No responsibility to care about their co-workers they will be asking for a ride to work when they lose their driving privilege. No responsibility to care for their loved ones, given the risk of driving while intoxicated or drinking to the point of losing consciousness.

It really is a simple question of responsibility and, in my opinion, maturity. Are we mature enough to understand the direct and indirect consequences of our actions? Are we mature enough to make a plan and stick to it? Are we mature enough to know our own limits? Are we mature enough to be a part of the Air Force team that has been at war since 1990 and will be for the foreseeable future? Are we mature enough to wear the uniform that represents professionalism, excellence and freedom?

For a select few, the answer is no.

The Air Force is going through an enormous transition. Budget and personnel cuts have forced all of us to work harder and longer. Programs such as Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century are designed to make up for the losses of personnel by making us as efficient as possible. But ultimately, efficiency will not change the fact that each individual Airman has become vitally important. We all complain about lack of manpower, yet we allow ourselves and others to act irresponsibly. It is time for all of us to decide if we are mature enough to make responsible choices.