Practice accountability

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Ray Jones
  • 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron
At our squadron newcomer's briefings, one of the topics I like to discuss is accountability. To me, there are two main types: the good type and the not so good type.

Good accountability comes from one simple sentence my boss often tells us: know what the rules are and follow them. The not so good type of accountability comes from not knowing or following the rules, and then being held accountable for them. The good kind is active. You, as the individual, are demonstrating accountability to yourself, your supervisor, peers and members of other units on base. The other type is passive. Your chain of command and first sergeant often have to get involved, dig into the details, and, in some cases, apply a corrective action; something is done to you.

There are many examples of how we can demonstrate accountability in our Air Force careers. An easy one is being where you need to be when you need to be there. The simple act of writing down appointments or putting them in an electronic calendar, and then following through by showing up on time demonstrates accountability. On the flip side, failing to follow through will likely generate a no-show letter for your commander and first sergeant to deal with. In the case of a missed medical appointment, for example, you waste your provider's time, the folks who have to generate the no-show letter, and your unit's time dealing with the situation. You might be cheating someone else out of a chance to see their provider as well.

Another way to demonstrate accountability is one of my personal favorites - physical fitness. The Air Force is constantly trying to improve the fitness program for our Airmen. It may not be perfect yet, but if you remember the ergo test, it's definitely come a long way. We began testing twice a year starting last January, and more changes are in store this July when we test under revised fitness standards.

Do you know when your next fitness test is due?

Do you know where you stand in terms of potential score?

Do you know when your next enlisted or officer performance report closes out?

Are you making time at least four or five times a week to exercise?

If you can answer yes to all those questions, chances are you've got good accountability for your fitness. If not, the fitness program will hold you accountable. Your unit fitness program manager will have to track you down and schedule your test. If you're in the "poor" fitness category when your performance report closes out, be prepared to have your supervisor select the "does not meet standards" block on your performance report. An entire year's worth of great duty performance can be overshadowed by failing to meet the minimum fitness standards. And if you score a second consecutive time in the poor category, your unit will hold a fitness review panel. An entire accountability process is set in motion that involves your unit supervision, the Health and Wellness Center, and possibly our legal and personnel system.

The final example on how to demonstrate accountability comes from alcohol consumption. Most of the bases I've been stationed at had a version of a down day reward program for going without a DUI for some length of time. I have mixed feelings about this. It does provide an incentive to prevent DUIs - but why do we have to reward ourselves for obeying the law? Simple - we sometimes don't demonstrate enough personal accountability when it comes to alcohol.

The host country at my last duty station had a stricter set of DUI laws in place that often tripped up American guests. The DUI fines started at 300,000 yen (about $3,000 at the time) for a .03 percent blood alcohol level, and then went up from there. A sober passenger in a DUI vehicle, or irresponsible party host or bartender also faced a heavy fine as well. It forced most folks to arrive at the conclusion that the only safe way to avoid a DUI in Japan was not to drive even after one drink. The .08 percent cutoff for DUI we have here at home is dangerous. It can put folks with alcohol in their system in the position of trying to decide if they're OK to drive or not. Practice accountability when it comes to alcohol use. Make firm plans before you have the first drink that don't involve driving, and follow through by giving your keys to a sober wingman. By doing so, you will prevent the need for the police and our legal system, either on or off base, and your chain of command, from having to hold you accountable.

These are just a few examples of how we can demonstrate accountability. Be on the lookout for others -- they happen every day.