Where have all the leaders gone?

Lt. Col. Martin E. Lovato
86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander

***image1***Duty, honor, country – these three hallowed words, made famous by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, dictate what you ought to be, what you can be and what you will be. They are your rallying point to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith and to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.

Sadly, I have recently witnessed several events that have weakened my faith and hope. The following examples illustrate why I feel our Air Force is in a state of apathy: Officers, NCOs and Airmen stroll from parking lots into base facilities without head gear. Male military members wear earrings on base. Military members are apprehended for driving under the influence. Careerism, nepotism, missed appointments and failure to go.

I could go on about other failures to comply with directives and examples of lack of integrity. Unfortunately, this type of behavior occurs too often.

Why? I assure you, the majority of our Airmen come to us from basic training well-prepared and ready to excel. But somehow, over time, they are losing their edge, their commitment and even their values.

In today’s active world of frequent deployments and limited resources, the responsibility of training, developing and mentoring our people is being ignored.

Why? Because many of the supervisors we count on, from junior NCOs to senior officers, have become complacent and self serving. I’ve heard many justifications – “It’s a new era.” “What’s the big deal about saluting?”

Think about it a moment. If one is willing to push the limits regarding standards, customs and courtesies, what’s next? Force protection, aircraft repairs and medical procedures? This has become an integrity check. Many ignore the issue and let someone else make the on-the-spot corrections, while making sure their personal career or agenda moves forward.

Many of you have several years of service under your belt. Often you reminisce about the “good ole’ days.” Frederick the Great once said, “What is the good of experience if you do not reflect?” Sit back and ponder, is your Air Force in a better state than when you first entered? If not, what are you doing about it?

Years ago, I was told the true test of a leader is how you conduct yourself when no one is watching. The theme was to instill in our people the pride and honor to do the right thing when no one is watching.

Leaders must step forward and positively impact people’s actions. In our institution we’ve seen good manners, respect for people and service before self. We cannot let this foundation slip away.

In closing, I must state that all is not lost. We serve in the finest profession in the greatest military in the world. It’s our duty to keep it that way. Everyday, I work with bright and hard-working people. I know the true leaders will step forward and restore my faith and hope. But more importantly, I’m counting on them when no one is watching.