Where does responsibility start?

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Josh W. Strickland
  • Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs

“But.” A term used to introduce a phrase or clause contrasting with what has already been mentioned and often used as an escape from one's own personal responsibility.

Although, what exactly is personal responsibility and what does it mean to Airmen serving in today’s Air Force? Those are the questions that I sat down and discussed with
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass during her trip to Minot Air Force Base, June 1.

The Air Force teaches us as Airmen three core values that are ingrained into our minds from the first “... I solemnly affirm …. So help me God” of our oath to this country: Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence In All We Do. These core values guide us and give us a foundation for leadership, decision-making and success; but (and there’s that pesky word again) what if you lack personal responsibility?

“We have to take into account what does integrity, service and excellence mean to us, and somehow internalize that to be our moral compass on what right or wrong is,” Bass said.

Personal responsibility is the internal obligation to accept the standards of society and make a conscious personal effort to live by those standards set by society and, in our case as Airmen, the Air Force. While the values provide a path and mantra for guidance on our path, the ability to self-actualize your level of personal responsibility is key to success.

In my experience, personal responsibility as it relates to my reason for service and my personal tie to the core values is as simple as the question, “Am I doing what is right to further my career while helping those around me?”

An obstacle I am learning to overcome is accepting hard decisions will have to be made in my life; holding myself to them and helping others while knowing that sometimes they won’t align with the internal sense of personal responsibility of other Airmen. This obstacle is quite difficult in regards to that last statement because sometimes what I feel is right may not be exactly what others feel is “cool.” However, overcoming the peer pressure of fitting in is always a hurdle for anyone in any circumstance.

Making that hard choice shouldn’t only give someone that sense of pride from making the right choice, but the choice to do so should come naturally to them. Naturally, in the sense that personal responsibility isn’t always an innate ability to choose what is right but is sometimes an earned sense of self that others have to work hard to achieve and maintain. That said, personal responsibility comes not only in the form of holding yourself accountable to your own decisions but holding yourself as an Airmen accountable to the fact that your actions and words can influence someone else’s decisions.

“We all have an opportunity to influence,” Bass said. “My hope as the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force is that we influence for good. To help bring each other along and take care of each other.”

Members of society have a duty to those around them. More so, Airmen have an obligation to serve as examples in the eyes of their country. That can be hard for some and come naturally for others. We owe it to those working hard on that sense of self to not sabotage or influence them in a conflicting manner but rather be present for duty as a wingman, a friend or just a helping hand when they may seem to be straying from that path.

“Going to basic or tech training doesn’t automatically make you someone who lives the core values, and we all come from different walks of life,” Bass said. “I came into our Air Force, and I was taught here are our core values, but that doesn’t mean that I lived those things out. I had to grow into the person that I am.”

What would you do if you saw a friend, a wingman, a fellow Airman or even an acquaintance make a decision that would affect their responsibility maybe not only to their oath of service but to their own life? What if they chose to drink and drive or you see them make inappropriate comments to their peers? What would you do?

We have a duty to ourselves and to others to lead and influence in a way every day that benefits our Air Force and the brothers and sisters that we serve with. We all took the oath, but that doesn’t mean our work ends there. Our work began at the oath. Our work began when we decided to pledge to those core values and hold ourselves responsible for the decisions we make and our progress on the path into becoming better people and Airmen.