Setting the standard with accountability

  • Published
  • By Col. Joseph Thomas
  • 94th Airlift Wing Vice Commander
This past October, the command Human Resource Development Council met. During the conference, I was startled by a rather sobering statistic. Did you know that 52 percent of second term Airmen leave the Air Force Reserve? Did you know that the number one reason given is a lack of accountability? 

What exactly does this mean when applied in real life? I was recently at the clinic waiting to start my hearing test when a master sergeant walked in and said he didn't want to take the hearing test today and asked the audio technician if he could come back during the week. The technician said he could but his physical would not be complete. The master sergeant said he was out here fulltime and could come back Wednesday. I asked the master sergeant if his hearing was bad because he'd been subjected to loud noise. He said no. I directed him to take the test then. 

How does this relate to accountability? First, the master sergeant sounded like he wasn't worried about being held accountable by his supervisor or Unit Health Monitor. Commanders, supervisors and program managers must ensure their directives are followed. If you don't create a reporting mechanism to check compliance then compliance will be low. In this example, low compliance means that the Air Force is going to pay the master sergeant twice to drive to the clinic. It means that the two technicians administering the test were going to be pulled away from their duties during the week. It means the master sergeant was not going to be available to perform his primary duty on Wednesday. 

Second, the master sergeant doesn't seem to be aware that he is setting a bad example to the two junior ranking audiology technicians. At some point in the future, these techs will require training from the master sergeant's squadron. If the Airmen follow the master sergeant's example, then they'll arrive at training and decide do it later. The two slots they are filling will have been wasted. They'll have to be rescheduled and the master sergeant's unit will look bad because it will appear that many people in the wing are delinquent in the training his unit provides. 

Third, the Airmen need to know that when someone of senior rank pulls this kind of baloney their supervisors will back them up by confronting that person and elevating it to that individual's supervisor, first sergeant or commander. This ensures that an Airman can hold a senior ranking individual accountable. 

It is up to commanders to set the standard for accountability in their units. If you hold your officers and senior NCOs accountable, then they will hold their subordinates accountable and your top performers will be recognized and sub-performers will be identified. You are not doing anybody a favor when your top Airman has the same performance report, awards and recognition as a non-performer. That results in non-performers being promoted to the rank of master sergeant who in turn create the number one reason why second-term Airmen separate from the Air Force Reserve at a
rate of 52 percent. 

I challenge each of you to build the kind of organization with which you will be proud to be associated. The foundation of any great organization is a culture of accountability.