Loyalty: A matter of choice

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Keith Brewer
  • 1st Maintenance Groups
In my experience, loyalty isn’t earned – it’s learned. 

I used to think I became loyal to someone once they earned my trust and respect. Now, I believe loyalty comes from being teachable and submissive to those placed in authority over me. I also believe that saying, “I’m loyal,” is like saying, “I am a fast runner;” both comments can only be validated by testing. 

To better understand the nature of loyalty, I want to give you two instances in which my loyalty was tested. 

As soon as our unit touched down in Kuwait, my commander suddenly handed me an aircraft parking plan. At the time, he failed to inform me that the Office of Special Investigations and security forces leadership had pre-determined this parking plan due to heightened threat conditions. 

Previous to my arrival, I had already established a workable parking plan, based on my previous knowledge of the flightline layout. His plan looked really messed up, so I went back to the commander to tactfully ask him, “Why?” He explained to me that the plan wasn’t up for debate, and he was depending on me to execute as directed. 

I saluted smartly, marched out and executed the plan by pulling my trusted expediters aside and saying things like, “Can you believe that guy? Why is he so far down into our weeds?” 

As the planes landed, I went around assuring the pilots that I had nothing to do with the lousy parking plan. I was more concerned with what my peers and pilots thought than any notions of loyalty to my commander. 

After all, if he trusted me, he should’ve explained everything that was going on, right? If I challenge the commander’s plan because it’s wrong, I should feel free to still openly disagree as long as I still follow the orders, right? 

Did he tell me to do something illegal or immoral? No, but, I felt mistreated, and my response revealed my immaturity in terms of loyalty, trust and respect. 

Fast forward several years later, an irate staff sergeant angrily asked me, “Why didn’t you tell me you didn’t approve my special duty application?” 

A few days earlier, I simply told him that the package wasn’t going to fly because some of his evaluations were weak. He pretended to understand and said, “Thanks.” 

His friends at work said things like, “Who does the chief think he is? He’s just got it out for you. Go to the commander.” 

He went to our commander, restated what I told him and asked the commander to look at the application. 

The commander looked at the application and said, “I disapproved this application. By the way, I remember the chief discussed this with me and recommended that I approve the application in spite of the less-than-spectacular evaluations. He felt you needed this opportunity. I thanked him for his input, but I was still going to disapprove due to the weak evaluations.” 

The young staff sergeant wanted me to say something about how I tried to fight for this on his behalf with the commander, but the commander is new and doesn’t want to rock the boat. That may have been tempting, but I have learned how to take the test. 

Loyalty is an act of faithfulness and submission and a tempering process. 

When a willing person undergoes this process, it releases him from the tyranny of self-centered motives. 

It is not wrong to desire a leadership position, or to pose questions to those placed in authority over us, but we should make sure our motives are right. 

I have learned firsthand that rebellious attitudes reflect insecurity. When we submit, however, we emit a sure sense of calm and strength. 

The age-old problem of pride is what usually keeps us from submission. Everyone will get tested in the realm of loyalty, faithfulness and submission. 

Loyalty is about character and is a choice. If we stay faithful, accountable and teachable, we can help ourselves make the right choices when we are tested.