In 2016, my new role as a State Command Chief required me to attend the Command Chief’s Course at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. I had not been back there since graduating from basic training in 1989, and my goodness how things have changed!
The new grandiose dorms with state-of-the-art water purifier dispensers, beautiful showers, no chrome in sight to be forced to rub with Never Dull on all day long, now houses our newest recruits. Not to mention no more boots to polish with cotton balls!
We toured the buildings, ate lunch with the recruits, and even had an opportunity to speak with some of the drill instructors. We were in total disbelief when we were told that the drill instructors must refrain from yelling at or calling names at the new recruits. I still think about that conversation today. For me and many of us chiefs, that’s what molded us, shaped us and broke us down to the very bottom so that we could understand and appreciate military discipline, follow rules, not question authority, and simply do what we’re told and be our best.
Since sitting in this role, I often think back to that conversation with the drill instructors as I am out and about. Many of our enlisted adhere to our military customs and courtesies -- you know, that “stuff” that was ingrained in our heads during basic training. However, I have, unfortunately, observed a lack in military bearing, particularly, some of our enlisted do not stand up when I, or a senior officer, or even a general officer, walks into the room. Some enlisted don’t even acknowledge your presence in the room, despite only being a few feet from you. Why is this happening?
I recently read an article, titled “The Importance of Etiquette”, it questions whether etiquette really matters anymore, and that the “rules for good behavior are old-fashioned and out of date.” The article explains that “etiquette doesn’t go away, it just evolves overtime to match the times,” and that “without etiquette, members of society would show far too much impatience and disrespect for one another, which would lead to insults, dishonesty, cheating, road rage, fist fights, and a rash of other unfortunate incidents.”
Perhaps if juxtaposed, we could argue our customs and courtesies don’t change, they just evolve over time -- drill instructors are not raising their voices anymore. The same contention could be made in that without our customs and courtesies, such as showing respect to our senior leaders, our enlisted would begin to show far too much impatience and disrespect. Of course we do not want this to happen.
If you have time, I would encourage you to read the article, and think about the next time you witness an Airman not displaying proper customs and courtesies. We are charged to lead by example and pass on the tradition of our customs and courtesies to our next generation. We cannot afford to live in a military where disrespect and impatience are the norm.