Airmen, Responsibility, and Greatness

  • Published
  • By Maj. Sean Robinson
  • 22nd Communication Squadron
Although my father taught me many valuable lessons while he was alive, the lesson that has left the biggest impression on me to this day was the meaning of personal responsibility.

Despite some faults, my father lived a responsible life; he was committed to his family, his friends, his co-workers and his community.

I didn't have to look far for a good mentor when it came to understanding the importance of responsibility.

My lesson on responsibility came the summer after I graduated from high school when I had to report off for a job that my father helped me attain. Only I was to blame for my inability to report to work that day.

My father stressed to me that when others were depending on me, for whatever reason, those people needed to know that they could count on me. My poor decisions shouldn't cause others to pick up my share of the work.

In other words, I had to be responsible, and this time I failed--I failed my boss, my coworkers and our customers, and I probably embarrassed my father.

I definitely did not consider how my selfish behavior would affect others. Needless to say, I learned my lesson.

Many years have passed since that day in 1984, but the lesson is still as poignant today as ever.

Personal responsibility is an ideal that many of our fellow Americans either do not understand or conveniently overlook.

They find it easier to blame someone else, and they don't expect any repercussions for their actions.

It seems that with each passing generation, personal responsibility loses more and more of its importance.

With this thought in mind, as I was preparing to take command, I wondered how the youngest Airmen in my squadron would fare when it came to understanding what responsibility truly meant. After all, I thought, I was much older than most of them, and our perspectives on what was moral and ethical were probably quite different.

I contemplated how large of a scope their definition of responsibility would encompass.

Although only two months have passed since I assumed command, I have witnessed enough to say that I am impressed with the youngest men and women of our Air Force.

Many of them operate daily with minimal supervision, and they perform their jobs with pride, professionalism and passion.

Compared to their non-military peers, they shoulder much more responsibility under more demanding circumstances.

Most of them are physically fit and are involved with squadron, wing, and community programs.

Many of them deploy across the world within the first few years on active duty status. In short, the vast majority of our newest Airmen are exceptional Americans, and they exercise personal responsibility daily.

Granted, we do have a small percentage of individuals pretending to be Airmen who fail to live up to our core values, who fail to be responsible. Unfortunately, these individuals tend to receive more attention than most Airmen who do the right thing every day.

Prior to assuming command, I was warned that I would spend 80 percent of my time on 20 percent of my people.

Some days this is true; however, I consider myself blessed that most days this is not the case. Perhaps those days are coming, but for now I remain optimistic.

I believe and trust that Airmen who I am privileged to command are responsible, and they strive for nothing less than excellence, nothing less than greatness.

Winston Churchill stated, "Responsibility is the price of greatness." We are the world's greatest Air Force because we have built a force whose members are willing to pay the price of greatness, including our newest generation of Airmen.

We all know that we are responsible to someone superior in rank. We must not forget, though, that we are also responsible to everyone junior in rank. We must show we are willing to pay the price for them. After all, the future of our greatness lies with every new Airman.