It’s all about 'accountability'

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland -- Accountability is a word that we in the Air Force have been hearing a lot lately. We are assured that our leaders intend to hold offenders "accountable" for their criminal behavior in the wake of a rise in sexual assault reporting across the service. Additionally, the cheating allegations at Malmstrom Air Force Base remind us all how critical accountability is when we are confronted with lapses in integrity at any level.

But what do these words mean? Why are they so critically important to who we are as Airmen?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word accountability means "the fact or condition of being accountable," and the word accountable means "required or expected to justify actions or decisions." When you apply those words to what we do in the Air Force each day the definitions make perfect sense.

If someone fails a fitness test or shows up to work late, we address the situation and respond accordingly with paperwork or other administrative actions; that is holding someone accountable. That accountability is critical for the good order and discipline of our units and even more for the individual members who may be on the receiving end of the action. It is not an enjoyable experience getting paperwork for something. However, if you have the work ethic the Air Force expects you to have, it makes you think about what happened, strive to overcome your shortfall, and hold yourself accountable to that standard in the future. It also ensures the rest of the unit understands the standard and sees it being enforced.

Unfortunately holding someone accountable is not always the popular position to take. In spite of that it's a leader's job to uphold that standard, whether it is a popular stance to take or not. Most leaders do just that, and do it well, but like any organization there are those that simply don't.

Leaders at every level can help be part of the solution to that problem, and it all starts with that word accountability. Leaders must hold their people accountable for their actions and be accountable to themselves and their unit for upholding that standard.

I wish I was perfect in this endeavor, but if I said that, I would be lying. I know there have been times when I missed the moment to hold someone accountable at the appropriate time, especially as a younger officer. But most of those times I either realized it later and corrected the issue, or had it pointed out by a superior or mentor so I could learn from it in the future. I take pride in holding myself to the same standard that I hold others. Because of that I strive to ensure that I am accountable for my mistakes and failures both as a subordinate and as a leader. The standards are important, and holding ourselves and those around us to those standards is critical, because in the end it's all about accountability.