Are we a one-mistake Air Force?

  • Published
  • By Cheif Master Sgt. Ronald Blietz
  • 4th Equipment Maintenance Squadron first sergeant
Throughout my almost 28 years in the Air Force, I have often heard the old adage that we are not a one-mistake Air Force. 

If an Airman did something wrong, he or she typically would not be kicked out for that one mistake; it was possible to recover and lead a productive, successful career. 

Now I hear that we are a one-mistake Air Force, and if you do anything wrong, you will be discharged. 

I want you all to know that is not a true statement!
The only difference is that crimes are no longer treated like mistakes.
A mistake is something you did not do on purpose and will try not to repeat. A crime is something you know is illegal and choose to do it anyway.

Take drunken driving for example. For years, a person could recover their career if they had been charged with drunken driving - sometimes even after being charged twice! Society thought of it as a mistake.

Today, many troops and supervisors still consider it as only a mistake in judgment when they get charged with drunken driving. Society and the Air Force have since changed their views on drunken driving. Choosing to drink and drive is a dangerous crime, not a mistake in judgment. A person knows that it's illegal to do, but still does it anyway, making it a crime.

In recent months the wing has adopted a zero-tolerance policy for drunken driving. Violators could be discharged, just like any other serious crime committed against the UCMJ.

So don't confuse a mistake with a crime.

A mistake, on the other hand, is something that was done unintentionally, but was wrong. 

A missed appointment for the first time would be a mistake. When it happens, you look at why it happened and implement some things that will prevent it from happening again. Being late for work because your alarm clock battery died is a mistake. So is failure to keep your uniform pressed and clean one day. These are mistakes because they are not routine happenings on your part. 

Now, if you consistently make these mistakes, then you are not showing an effort to improve. A pattern of misconduct can lead to more serious consequences for the member under the UCMJ.

Mistakes have become more costly to Airmen since the Air Force began trimming its numbers. Commanders, first sergeants and supervisors do not have time to deal with people who cannot obey simple rules and regulations. It does not take much to be discharged in this day and age.

Senior leadership asks that Airmen come to work on time, do their job to the best of their ability and behave in a sensible manner when off duty.

That doesn't seem too difficult, does it? 

But in fact, we have too many individuals who choose not to comply with one or more of those simple rules. 

If you sign a contract for four or six years, do your best during that contract. Once it is over, make an informed decision. If you can live up to the Air Force standard, then your continued service is welcome. If not, get out and move on with your life. 

If you choose to not uphold that contract, then a pattern of mistakes will have a negative impact on your career, while committing a crime will probably cost you your career and have other life-long consequences. 

The Air Force has provided a great life for me. I know the difference between a mistake and a crime. I have made plenty of mistakes that I've learned from, but I will not commit a crime.