Professionalism: A tradition that never changes

  • Published
  • By SMSgt. Eric M. Sharman
  • 908th Airlift Wing

With the recent passing of our Air Force’s 74th birthday, I’ve been putting a good deal of thought into how much has changed. In the 25 years I’ve served, I’ve worn three uniforms, seen a number of bases close, and several airframes retired. 

It struck me that there is one thing that hasn’t and never should change, and that is our professionalism and adherence to standards. We are expected to train, fight, and win right alongside active duty, joint, and coalition forces seamlessly. By that rationale, our professionalism should always be above reproach. 

I was asked to write this article because leadership all the way up to our wing commander has noticed something… some of us, are slipping. I’m not just referring to those who are being lax, but those who see such behavior and do not take action. 

It is the job of every Airman to be a good wingman. Air Force Instruction 1-1, Air Force Culture, Ch 2.5, states “Being a good wingman means taking care of fellow Airmen— and taking action when signs of trouble are observed.” This can be applied to many situations, and in reality, it should be applied to all.

Sure, signs of trouble can vary from financial irresponsibility to suicide ideation. Those are of course where any Airman feels led to take action. I would also posit that, on a smaller scale, something like not adhering to grooming standards or expected customs and courtesies also present an opportunity to be a good wingman. 

A tactful correction of another Airman, even a higher ranking one, should be taken with appreciation by a true professional. A true professional wants to bring their best self to every situation, and is led to be an example for others to follow. I encourage all of you to be bold leaders. If you see something you know isn’t right, call it out. 

Tell your wingman that his five o’clock shadow needs to disappear, or ask to see his shaving waiver. Tell your wingman that her nails are too long, and they shouldn’t be neon green. These examples are basic little things that every adult should be able to understand and comply with. If you happen to be the Senior Airman mutton chops, or the Tech. Sgt. with frequent flyer miles at the nail salon, then read AFI 36-2903, and do better. Do better because the next generation of Air Force leaders see you and they deserve to see your true skills and leadership abilities, not an easily fixable deviation from standards.

Seventy four years of being the most dominant Air Force in the world, and much has changed to include these standards. But again, one thing that hasn’t and shouldn’t change is our professionalism.