Stray shots part IV--standards

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Ted Ruminsky
  • 934th Security Forces Squadron commander
What does being compliant with standards mean to you? Why are standards important in the USAF? Why do we even have to discuss standards at meetings, during training, or while conducting missions? I ask these questions because the issue of being compliant with established standards is a recurring topic of discussion within the USAF. Uniform standards, FOD checks, Fitness standards, timeliness of performance reports, etc; compliance issues arise every day.

Standards are important because they usually establish a minimal acceptable level of personal or organizational performance and they come in many forms. They can be professional, pertaining to a specific discipline or career-field, IE: personnel serving food at the dining facility must wear sanitary gloves. They can be technical in nature, applying to everyone that uses a certain piece of equipment, IE: the wheel nut torque specification is 100 ft lbs. Many standards are universal, applying to everyone in the organization, such as fitness and uniform compliance.

Standards can be formal or informal. Informal standards are often linked to behavior, sometimes referred to as folkways or customs. They can be something as simple as the common courtesy of saying "please" and "thank you" at the appropriate times, or that you must "wait for your turn" in line. Informal standards do not typically have formal consequences. You will not go to jail for failing to say "thank you," but people may find you rude or unpleasant to work with. Examples of formal standards might be technical orders, Air Force Instructions and State or Federal Law. Formal standards normally have formal consequences for non-compliance. The common thread to all types of standards is that they provide, or should provide, the "rules" to play by. They assist us in getting along with others by establishing behavioral expectations and providing a common operating environment.

Enforcement of standards can come in many forms. The most basic form of enforcement starts with the individual, through self-enforcement. You chose to comply or not. The next level of enforcement is often others closest to you. Your friends, family, or co-workers will likely let you know. Sometimes referred to as "peer-enforcement" the consequences are often more informal. For example, if you strike-out at the plate while playing slow-pitch softball, your teammates will often levy a "beverage tax" for your failure to comply with the standard of being able to hit the softball into fair-play. Formal enforcement typically has formal consequences and can be tied to legal issues. Common sources of formal consequences are your place of work, through your city, the State and Federal government.

Ultimately, compliance with a standard starts with you. Only you control your own behavior and only you decide whether or not you are going to chose to comply. If there is a standard you don't like or you feel is unreasonable, within your span of control, you can work to get it changed. If it's not within your span of control, you may be left with the choice to comply or not. If you chose not to comply, then it follow that you chose to accept the consequences. It's that simple. I would not recommend you spend a lot of time quibbling or making excuses. This is especially true of military personnel; we have a fiduciary responsibility to get on with more productive endeavors. Remember, the old axiom: "The "maximum range of an excuse is zero meters."