Full spectrum discipline

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jason Nystrom
  • 22nd Force Support Squadron first sergeant
Upon hearing the term military discipline, some of us might think of staying collected while under fire of maintaining order in the mist of chaos. But, I would guess the majority of us associate discipline with staying out of trouble. 

While this is true, I prefer to think of military discipline as a way of avoiding trouble all together. When talking about trouble I'm not talking about violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice, I'm talking about applying the military discipline we learn to our lives as a whole. 

As first sergeants, 95 percent of our judicial and non-judicial cases can be traced back to a break down in personal discipline; the other five percent is stupidity. It could be a member who just can't get to work on time, a loss of a security clearance due to outstanding debt or someone who failed multiple physical fitness tests. By the time most cases reach our desks, the chance to apply discipline has already passed. This is why commanders and first sergeants constantly preach about staying disciplined and bringing problems up to us before they get out of hand. 

Looking back on the three problems I mentioned, you would likely find someone who was late started to form bad habits long before being late for work became a problem. Staying up late lead to coming to work tired and trying to catch up on sleep lead to skipping breakfast or lunch instead. Skipping meals and lack of sleep lead to poor performance at work. All of this combined lead to a letter of reprimand for "failure to go." 

Most debt problems don't happen overnight. Most of the time, it comes down to not having the discipline to live within our means or not having the patience to save for things we want. Using credit cards are much easier, until we have to pay them off. 

With PT, we all know we need to get it done and enforce it, but it remains a constant and considerable problem for first sergeants. We all must take responsibility for ourselves and have the discipline to get to the gym, even if it's on our own time. If you're a supervisor, you also must look after subordinates and have the discipline to know when to be a friend and when to be a supervisor. Don't let your subordinates' discipline slip; look for the signs before it's too late. 

Applying a full spectrum discipline approach to our lives and duties would alleviate a vast amount of problems first sergeants see. As servicemen and women we can not afford to let our discipline fall to the wayside or even slip. Too many people rely on us, including our families. We must constantly be squared away in every aspect of our lives. So, when we get the call, we can pick up our gear and board an aircraft with the confidence of knowing our subordinates, obligations and families will remain in good order. This allows us to stay focused in country, complete the mission and return home safe.