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Making good choices

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- I am an Air Force officer of 18 years and a father of five boys, but I don't claim to be a smart man. My wife, on the other hand, is brilliant!

While I've been off having fun being an Airman, learning to fly and trying to be a good leader, she has been at home raising our five boys into quality young men. Knock on wood: we've been fortunate. My boys are healthy, do well in school, and I haven't had that 2 a.m. phone call from the local police department.

Every day I ask myself, "How have we managed to be so lucky?" As I ponder this question, I realize that a majority of our success as parents stems from a principle that my wife has instilled in our boys since they were toddlers. That principle, while only three words, is especially applicable to anyone in the Air Force. It drives everything we do. It's a simple concept, yet so difficult to execute. While easy to say, teaching this to others can be the most difficult task in the world. I am talking about "making good choices."

Time and again I see Airmen, NCOs and officers make poor choices that ultimately end with severe consequences.

Driving while intoxicated, driving too fast, or riding a motorcycle without proper protective equipment are all examples of extremely poor choices. Other, less severe, but still poor choices may include being late to work, playing video games all night instead of sleeping, or the one I'm most guilty of, procrastinating on suspenses until it causes stress, anxiety and prevents finishing other important tasks. These are all poor choices.

The sad part is all poor choices are preventable. I recently read a quote by an unknown author. It said "good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions." While humorous in some regard, this quote is applicable in most situations, but why does it have to be?

For many people, unfortunately, a good choice only comes from having experienced the repercussion of a bad choice earlier in life. I'll admit that it is hard to teach a child the consequences of touching a hot stove until he or she has experienced the pain of burning themselves. Why must an Airman get into trouble for being late before realizing that getting to work on time is a good choice?

As a commander, these are the things that drive me crazy. Decisions that seem so obvious and easy yet often lead to as poor choices. As Airmen we must be better than most.

Having spent two separate six-month deployments with one of our sister services, I can honestly say that one of the biggest differences between the Air Force and our sister services is our willingness to allow our younger Airmen, NCOs and officers to make significant choices and decisions. In fact, we expect them to. To do that, we must teach each other the value of a good choice from the beginning. Not one made after experiencing the repercussions of several poor choices in the past.

Good choices go hand in hand with the Air Force core value of integrity. Don't just do what is acceptable but what is right. Save yourself from trouble and heartache by making a good choice, the right choice, even though no one is there to see you do it. Knowing that what you did was right because it was the right thing to do.

This is what makes us good Airmen. This is what makes our service standout from the others.

Good choices up front allow us to focus on the mission and take care of our people instead of wasting our time teaching others the consequences of bad choices. Good choices result in on-time takeoffs and bombs on target. They protect classified information and keep our bases secure. Good choices get Airmen promoted. Good choices allow the Air Force to continue to protect our nation in order to preserve the ideals of freedom and democracy, so that we can all enjoy the life we choose to live. Be a great Airman: make good choices!