How Jiminy Cricket might have been an Airman

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Joel Shepherd
  • 338th Training Squadron
After 18 years of active duty service, I have come to the conclusion that Jiminy Cricket must have been an Airman. Not only was he an Airman, he was a damn good Airman saturated in the Air Force core values. I came to this conclusion because he always shows up when I am conflicted with doing the right thing or doing the convenient thing. He personifies our core values because he is either trying to convince me to do the right thing, do the right thing as best as I can or do the right thing when I really don't want to do it (sometimes he even wants me to do all three).

Mr. Cricket doesn't show up with a bullhorn or flashing neon lights to get my attention, but rather in the form of a whisper or a compelling feeling in my gut. Because he is subtle in his approach, I haven't always listened to him or taken his advice even though it is usually spot-on.

One of the most frequent occasions where I am conflicted between convenience and doing the right thing is when I recognize simple breaches of Air Force standards, including uniform infractions. For example, sometimes I am in a public place and I notice a hat hanging halfway out of a member's airman battle uniform cargo pocket. At first, I play a game of denial and tell myself that I didn't see it. When that doesn't work, I try to downplay it. I tell myself it's not that big of a deal. Sometimes, I start making excuses for the member including that they are an officer or could be having a bad day.

Then Jiminy slaps me with a whisper. "If you don't enforce standards, how can you expect others to enforce standards?"

Sometimes, I even tell myself that this infraction doesn't personally bother me; it's not that big of a deal.

Mr. Cricket responds, "It's not your job to judge the standards, it's your job to meet and enforce them."

I hesitate because I don't know how the member is going to react and I don't want to deal with the aftermath if the situation escalates to an uncomfortable level.

Jiminy pops in with, "You can't control the member's reaction and you're probably doing them a favor in the long run. Think about all the other folks who are meeting the standards; you owe it to them to make this correction."

So, I approach the member and say, "Do me a favor, tuck your hat all the way in or pull it out in accordance with AFI 36-2903."

Jiminy was right, as I have survived each of these encounters.

Another conflicting situation is when I am overwhelmed and behind with administrative duties. I will be in my office and someone will knock on my door and ask, "Shirt, do you have a minute?" I am tempted to say, "NoI don't." I start rationalizing that my workload would justify this answer. If I could just get a break from people, I could get some work done.
Mr. Cricket twists my gut and tells me, "Make time -- the people are your job. You can't expect your Airmen to be good wingmen if you aren't one yourself."

So I respond with, "Come on in and close the door."

Jiminy was right again, because the member's issues are customarily more important than any of the administrative duties that I have to do. Sometimes, a life is saved.

One of the most challenging scenarios involves making an unpopular decision or statement. Sometimes, it is in a staff meeting and the players all want to take the easy way out of a difficult task; or I witness a discreet inappropriate joke from a peer that everyone laughs at. I hesitate to engage because I don't want to be disliked in my element.

Jiminy jumps in with, "They say integrity is doing what's right when nobody is looking."

I cut him off and say, "I know, I pick up trash and wear my hat when no one is around."

Jiminy responds, "That's the easy part of integrity. Doing what's right when everyone is looking, and they are wrong -- now that's not so easy."

Copy that, Mr. Cricket -- time to make a move and engage. He was right again.

Jiminy Cricket has shown up many other times and more frequently than I am comfortable with. However, through these Jiminy Cricket interactions, I have learned that he doesn't show up to make my life more difficult. Despite the challenges, he presents me, Jiminy is helping me do the right thing. He is not interested in the easy thing.

Mr. Cricket has told me several times, "The Air Force doesn't pay you to do the easy thing, and the Air Force did not promote you to ignore these situations."

The right thing is usually a little more difficult and requires a simple courageous step of engagement. These convictions drive me to strive to do the right thing, and in the long run it makes my life simpler and easier. Yes, I truly believe Jiminy Cricket was a damn good Airman, possibly even a first sergeant.