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'Little blue book' provides foundation for success

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Airmen are receiving notifications that thank them for their service, but inform them that they were not selected for retention. 

As our force shrinks due to overmanning and budget cuts, many members are puzzled and even ask why they didn't "make the cut." 

During counseling sessions with members, I often hear comments such as, "I only made one mistake and I learned from it," and "I don't understand why I was not retained." 

When looking deeper into an Airman's history, it's not surprising to find records that may reveal an unfavorable information file, control roster or perhaps even an Article 15. Airmen need to understand that mistakes happen but breaking the law cannot, and will not, be tolerated. 

We are in a profession where we are afforded guidance and structure.  There is one publication that sums up how to be an American Airman regardless of rank.  Air Force Instruction 1-1, Air Force Standards, provides guidance for all Airmen on expectations 24/7 while on or off duty. 
The Oath of Enlistment is referenced and explained to all who read this "little blue book."  By taking the oath, an Airman affirms to protect and defend our American freedoms and agrees to live by the established military rules and standards.  This oath is not only a promise to protect and defend; it's also the basis for our core values and outlines how our actions must always be above reproach.

Our core values are the foundation on which every Airman can build a successful career.  These values are not just words; they are standards that we should strive to live and breathe by.  Having the integrity to always do what is right often is not easy but, in the end, the decision will far outweigh the ramifications of making the wrong choice. 
Our Airmen are expected to put professional duties ahead of personal desires and accomplish all tasks to the best of their abilities. 

By simply understanding and maintaining these standards of conduct as a priority, our Airmen are able to complete extraordinary tasks and make sound decisions that result in mission accomplishment. 

Unfortunately, there are those who choose to stray from our core values and break the law, not just make a mistake.  All it takes is one Airman to have an unprofessional relationship, smoke marijuana, drink underage, disregard technical data or checklists, sexually harass a coworker, drink and drive - the  list goes on and on - to negate the outstanding things the rest of our Airmen do every day.

Failing to maintain standards that have existed since we raised our right hand to take the Oath of Enlistment, not only counters the Air Force core values but the very mission we have been entrusted with to execute in a professional manner.  As individuals, we are responsible for our actions and the choices we make, but we can't choose the consequences. 

During the 2014 Air Force Sergeants Association Professional Airmen's conference, former Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James A. Roy explained, "There is a big difference between a one-mistake Air Force and a one-crime Air Force.  If it's a crime, then punishment endures.  I would say all of us have made mistakes and have come back from them.  They've made us stronger." 

As we continue force shaping, we are forced to keep the best of the best; anything less just won't do. 

The tools and guidance provided early in our careers continue to arm us with the knowledge and structure necessary to carry out a successful Air Force career.  No matter how short or long we choose to serve our great nation, the "little blue book" is instrumental in providing the blocks we need for a strong foundation. 

If Airmen strive to live and breathe by the guidance contained in AFI 1-1's pages, they will be more prepared to face retention boards and should not be shocked with the news they receive. 

We are the world's best Air Force because we have great Airmen, not average Airmen.