Air Force culture of responsibility

  • Published
  • By Gen. Roger A. Brady
  • Commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe
As Airmen, we have taken a solemn vow to serve and protect our nation, and I commend you for your service. With that service, however, comes great responsibility and the necessity to make proper choices. We are confronted every day with choices, both on and off-duty, that can and do impact both the mission and perception by others of our Air Force and Americans in Europe. With that in mind, individuals at every level must relentlessly strive to develop and maintain an environment defined by integrity and accountability, or in other words a "culture of responsibility."

My role as USAFE Commander allows me the privilege of witnessing firsthand the amazing accomplishments of our team members throughout our AOR, both military and civilian. I am constantly humbled and inspired by the great things we are accomplishing, including providing forces for global operations, assuring allies and deterring aggression, ensuring strategic access, and building partnerships throughout the region. The recent rescue by USAFE Airmen of a ship crewmember off the Irish coast is a prime example of the fine work we do on a daily basis. This complex operation required three airframes, strict discipline and an amazing level of teamwork. Of course, this is just one example of the countless contributions we make in the support of our nation's defense.

We are performing a serious business in very challenging times. Budget cuts, high optempo and deployments all serve to make our task that much more difficult. Clearly, there is little room for error in the performance of our mission. Poor choices in our personal and professional lives negatively impact that mission and divert the precious little resources we do have away from where they are needed most. The actions of a few can also serve to tarnish the otherwise outstanding record of excellence for which USAFE is known. Without fail, the stories we read about Airmen in trouble are entirely preventable and the direct result of a poor decision. Alcohol abuse and illicit drug use, fitness deficiencies and failure to follow safety & security guidelines are all examples of behavior that serve to take people off the line and out of the fight.

Simple everyday choices may seem insignificant at the time but often have significant impact to the mission. There have already been 20 mishaps in the command only six weeks into the "101 Critical Days of Summer." All of these caused lost duty time, directly impacted our ability to accomplish the mission, and three of our Airmen also lost their lives. The impact of these tragic fatalities on families and unit members is enormous. Aside from the harm done by tragic accidents however, we have also caused ourselves unnecessary burden through isolated incidents where individuals simply fail to do the right thing. As an example, Airmen in USAFE recently used a thumb drive on an Air Force computer--a deliberate, expedient choice in violation of a strict DoD policy which has been emphasized and in place for months. By disregarding this known directive, the individuals re-infected our computer systems with a previously eliminated threat and wasted valuable time and resources.

I hold your leaders, at every level, accountable for their actions and those of their subordinates. But the real answer is individual responsibility, to the mission, our families and fellow Airmen. I couldn't be prouder of our USAFE Airmen and the fine work we are doing in Ensuring Freedom's Future--however we need to continually strive to make responsible choices. A philosopher has said, "we are what we habitually do." Let's focus on doing the right things. Whether it is being a good wingman, adhering to standards, or just doing what is appropriate when no one is looking, we must do the right thing. That will ensure a culture of responsibility.