HomeNewsArticle Display

EVERY AIRMAN COUNTS: Treating each other with dignity and respect

WASHINGTON (AFNS) --

When I was a young Airman, during the heat of an intense intramural flag football game, a fellow Airman, who was frustrated that he could not stop me from advancing the ball, yelled the “N” word out loud. I was shocked and confused. Having been raised in Southeast Washington, D.C., I was certainly no stranger to harsh language or “trash talk.” However, this was different—and it literally hurt. I thought I had left that type of behavior behind me. I was an American Airman and I didn’t expect that kind of verbal attack from a fellow Airman. 

You must understand that growing up as I did, I never heard terms like dignity, respect, integrity, service or excellence. I was not a bad person and my parents taught me to respect myself and others; however, this notion of devotion to a larger purpose, to institutional values, was new to me. The Air Force stood for something and I liked it. Those words meant I could always trust and depend on my fellow Airmen.  But at that moment, on that field, those values had been violated and I felt let down.

Standing in the bright lights that lit-up the football field, I was at a loss…Then something remarkable happened.  Several Airmen, on both sides of the ball, spoke up -- forcefully. They chastised the offender and made it clear they did not approve of his outbursts or attitude. The referee, who was an NCO, also stepped forward and not only ejected him from the game, but directed him to report to his first sergeant the following day. The next day, not only did my teammates (on both teams) go out of their way to apologize for this single Airman’s behavior, but the Airman who committed the act also personally apologized.

As an officer, some of the best experiences in my life have been the opportunities I’ve had to command.  I especially enjoyed my squadron command because it was in the midst of Operation Desert Shield/Storm and my entire unit was singularly focused. That period was particularly taxing because in addition to my squadron commander duties, I was also responsible for making sure that Airmen deployed properly and airplane loading plans were followed precisely.    

One busy night on the flightline, a young Airman approached me and said she was being harassed by several male Airmen. She went on to say that this wasn’t the first time the harassment had occurred and typically she would just “grin and bear it.” However, since we were literally preparing for war, she did not want to be distracted and just wanted the behavior to stop. Although she was not assigned to my squadron, we quickly and decisively dealt with those involved. Several months later I ran into the female Airman at the gym. I reminded her about her words, “grin and bear it,” and asked why she put up with that behavior without speaking out. She explained that she so badly wanted to be part of the squadron that she remained silent as not to “make waves.” 

Her story bothered me a lot. For a young Airman to feel like she had to “go along to get along” by accepting behavior that was repulsive was unacceptable to me.  We were part of a premiere Air Force fighter wing gearing-up for war.  We had to trust each other and have each other’s back. In my way of thinking, treating each other with dignity and respect was a given—unfortunately, in her case it was not.   

Dignity and respect are not just words.  Merriam Webster defines dignity as “the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed;” and respect as “a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important and should be treated in an appropriate way.”  We all want to be respected by others…both as human beings and as military professionals.  During my career, I’ve witnessed Airmen treating others with disrespect and dishonor. As vice chief of staff, I cringe when I read reports of sexual assaults in our Air Force. I personally know the hurt of racially charged words and I have seen and witnessed the hurt associated with victims of sexual assault. Airmen who act in this manner are not representative of the Air Force I serve and I won’t tolerate it. Neither should you. 

I know the vast majority of our Airmen don’t act that way—they understand the importance of fostering a culture of dignity and respect and they live it every day. To those Airmen, I say thank you for living up to Air Force core values and I ask you to join me in re-doubling our efforts to NOT TOLERATE those who don’t live-up to those standards. Airmen don’t sexually harass or assault fellow Airmen (or anyone for that matter). Airmen don’t care about their fellow Airman’s race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. We focus on character, commitment, professional competence and leadership.  And, if we run into that small percentage of Airmen who violate those standards, we speak up and report that behavior to the appropriate officials.

For those who cannot or will not live up to Air Force standards, I offer a simple phrase: “shape up or ship out.” If we have members who won’t subscribe to integrity, service and excellence, we don’t want them.

We all signed up to be part of the best Air Force the world has ever seen.  The Air Force didn’t become the best by accident. Dedicated, committed Airmen who live by our core values each and every day made it that way. You and I now have a sacred responsibility to not only keep us the best but to make the AF even greater. That’s a big responsibility, but it starts by treating everyone with dignity and respect and remembering that every Airman counts.

 

Engage

Twitter
Military and government representatives from multiple academic and intelligence communities met for the first… https://t.co/qGoWVhfR0v
Twitter
Readying the force @AETCommand hosted a study as part of a process to restructure force development and assist ca… https://t.co/WGmiQO2QvW
Twitter
Accelerating change The Air Force Weapons School Integration training approach has taken a new form. Its focus has… https://t.co/bho4Ehrhfn
Twitter
Accelerate with AFWERX @AFWERX will host its inaugural Accelerate event virtually, Dec. 7-11, 2020. The event will… https://t.co/mCEAXbw0OD
Twitter
RT @cmsaf_official: The title says it all. Wanna be a good leader, be a good follower. Have a fantastic Thursday, teammates! Be delibera…
Twitter
Increasing #USAF aircraft capabilities The B-1B Lancer’s expanded carriage capabilities came one step closer to fr… https://t.co/wiqhTQyESO
Twitter
RT @grandslamwing: Our Expeditionary Engineers demonstrated their Rapid Airfield Damage Repair skills during an exercise, to strengthen our…
Twitter
Welcome home! An Airman hugs a loved one at @139AW upon returning from a deployment to the @CENTCOM area of respon… https://t.co/32OrUWfD6A
Twitter
Col. (ret.) Clyde Westbrook piloted the HC-130P Combat King to recover American POWs during the Vietnam War. He rec… https://t.co/ilcucCPocS
Twitter
RT @JASDF_PAO_ENG: On Nov 19, General Izutsu had in-person meetings with General Wilsbach, Commander, PACAF and Ms. Seybolt, Deputy Under S…
Twitter
Humanitarian relief operations A Special Tactics operator loads a tactical vehicle onto a @USArmy CH-47 Chinook he… https://t.co/cveQ5G0HjE
Twitter
Update to the fleet The Kentucky @AirNatlGuard's 123rd Airlift Wing has been flying the C-130H Hercules aircraft s… https://t.co/7iHBZtTXkQ
Twitter
Air Force updates travel screening process for EFMP families #ICYMI The updates came after vital feedback from… https://t.co/JuKr3rOL98
Twitter
RT @USAF_ACC: How are you building your digital literacy? Check out the program from Digital University for @usairforce and @SpaceForceDoD
Twitter
RT @HQUSAFEAFAF: ✈️Planes in the air....Maintenance put them there! https://t.co/gtxVl4klLU
Twitter
RT @RamsteinAirBase: No airfield? No Problem. The 435th CRG enhances their ability to build expeditionary airfields on demand during exerc…
Twitter
Load 'em up! The 60th Aerial Port Squadron is the @US_TRANSCOM's primary west coast aerial port, providing global… https://t.co/MRtQdKCK7h
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,315,568
Follow Us