Dragon Corner: Follow AFI 36-####..., but Why?

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Robert Winters
  • 81st Training Group
The U.S. Air Force has Air Force Instructions to explain how certain items need to be done or to provide direction on how to properly carry on the AF mission. Since an AFI is a form of a general order, violation of these orders can lead to disciplinary measures of great consequence.

The Air Force Policy Directive 36-29 states, "The importance of the Air Force's mission and inherent responsibility to the Nation requires its members to adhere to higher standards than normally found in civilian life." This means that we have to conduct ourselves in a manner above reproach. Furthermore, it goes on to explain that the "directive incorporates overarching Department of Defense and Air Force instructions, directives and policies to ensure members meet their interrelated personal, professional, and family-care responsibilities".

Stating the introduction on AFIs and their purpose have you ever sat back and pondered the question, "Why"? I mean, why does the Air Force perform certain things, per the AFI, the way they do? I have. I mean I still follow the AFIs, but I have asked the question, and if you are anything like me, you have also asked the question.

Each week, I have the privilege of speaking with our newest Airmen in the United States Air Force, two days after they arrive at Keesler upon graduating from Air Force Basic Military Training. During our discussion, we speak on a wide array of topics. One of the topics is professional and unprofessional relationships. Here is how that conversation goes;

Me: What types of things will make you "unsuccessful" during your time in Air Force technical training, at Keesler and in the U.S. Air Force?

Airmen: Unprofessional Relationships (Although, this is not the only example mentioned).

Me: That is correct. Now I have another question for you. Why? Why will unprofessional relationships make you unsuccessful?

About this time I usually get some bewildered looks as if to say, "because that is what we were told" or "because they are wrong". Finally, an Airman will raise their hand and say;

Airmen: Because it is not the right thing to do.

Me: But why is it not the right thing to do?

Airmen: Because it could show favoritism

Me: That is correct.

I go on to explain that through favoritism or a perception of favoritism, the mission will suffer. As AFI 36-2909 states unprofessional relationships erode morale, good order and discipline, respect for authority, unit cohesion and mission accomplishment.

Finally, I state; "How can you lead and follow in the military, if you lose those things?" At this stage I get a mass nodding of heads. Diving into this further, I explain that as nonprior service Airmen, they should not be in a personal relationship with a military training leader, an Instructor, a permanent party member and/or a Prior-Service member.
They tend to yell a resounding "Yes Sir" and we move on to the next item that would make them unsuccessful while in Air Force technical training or the U.S. Air Force as a whole.

I relay this interaction with our new Airmen to ensure you understand that they too are delving into the AFIs, and understanding them at a greater depth than merely face value. By asking why, and not simply looking at words as black and white objects on a piece of paper, you will get the benefit of learning why the Air Force runs the way it does.

It is through this critical thinking and love for the military that you will continue to grow, ensure a better understanding of why we do the things we do, and be able to mentor those around you to continue to lead our Air Force. Not only will this make you a better Airmen or civilian supporting the Air Force, but it will ensure you are fully vested in "The Greatest Air Force in the World!"