The Rules: A Simple Guide to Get “Back to the Basics”

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Robert Moore
  • 55th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander
Ever since my arrival at Offutt last summer, there has been an emphasis on compliance and going "back to the basics." We have had two major inspections from Air Combat Command and a Nuclear Staff Assistance visit. This comes on the heels of the 2009 message from the chief of staff of the Air Force about the "basics" directing a down day for wings to discuss checklist discipline and the Air Force chief of logistics sending maintenance teams to 20 bases to survey maintenance practices.

While these actions and other programs have done a great job of raising awareness, what they have not explained is the meaning of "back to the basics."

"Exactly what are these basics everyone keeps talking about?" This is one of the most common questions I hear when I'm talking to my squadron, especially from new Airmen.
It is really very simple: they're talking about being disciplined and following the rules. Before you think I am replacing one vague concept with a different one, I will try to explain what I mean.

The good news is you already know what the rules are. On duty you were taught the rules of your job at technical schools, through on-the-job training and operating instructions, regulations and in upgrade training. Off duty, these basics are handed down as federal and state laws. Specific military laws for active-duty personnel come from the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

In the military, rules definitely have their place and are designed to protect you and your fellow Airmen. This is critical in aircraft maintenance where aircrew and passengers depend on maintainers to follow technical data and safety procedures to produce safe aircraft.

Over the past few years, several Airmen have been killed while performing regular maintenance. In each situation the individuals involved were not following technical data or safety procedures--the rules!

The rules don't just apply to maintenance; they must be followed by everyone. How would you like to have been on the jet that landed with the gear up because the crew didn't use their checklist? Would you want to follow someone with the flu in the doctor's treatment room where they don't follow standard sanitization procedures?

The decision not to follow the rules can have a life-changing impact! It affects not only the individual, but national defense, budget, combat support and fellow Airmen. Losing a single aircraft costs millions of dollars, jeopardizes operations, and can lead to injury or death.

These same basics also apply to off-duty conduct. Breaking the rules can lead to death, injury or significant monetary damage for the individual who is breaking the law or an innocent by-stander.

Someone found guilty of driving while intoxicated could lose a stripe, forfeit monthly pay for up to two months, and receive extra duty. For a staff sergeant, this could result in a loss of over $10,000 over a two-year period, and this doesn't include the future monetary loss of a delayed promotion. For an officer, it will very seriously impact your Air Force career.

Each of us in the Air Force raised our right hand and took an oath to "obey the orders of the president and the officers appointed over us in accordance with the regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice," or "to well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. " So it should be very easy for all of us to follow the rules.

The good news is that Team Offutt does an excellent job, especially on-duty. This has been verified over the past two years by a variety of major inspections.

We should all be proud of what we have accomplished together, both at home and throughout our overseas duties.

Team Offutt has proven we know what the rules are and how to follow them. We utilize our checklist, job guides and follow established procedures every day. Bottom line, we follow the rules. This is exactly what our leaders are speaking of when they tell us we need to go back to the basics.

However, we should never rest on our laurels and reputation. Our first core value is integrity and we must continue to follow the rules even though no one outside the wing is watching.