Discipline - self-imposed or imposed on, it's your choice

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. John Barnklau
  • Det. 2, 25th Intelligence Squadron
"If we don't discipline ourselves, the world will do it for us." 
-- William Feather 

"You're late...what's your excuse this time?" 

"I'm sorry sergeant; my alarm clock didn't go off." 

"Wasn't that your excuse last week? Still haven't gotten it fixed? This is the fourth time you've been late this month. Airman, it's obvious that you're incapable of self-discipline, so I think it's time for some imposed discipline." 

How many times have we come across this type of scenario in our careers - whether we're the Airman, the sergeant or just an innocent bystander - wondering how someone can be so stupid? 

We've all made mistakes in our careers. The difference is that people with self-discipline rarely make mistakes, and if they do, they never make the same mistake twice. Unlike those with little or no discipline who seem to always make mistakes and usually the same one quite often. 

As a young Airman I lacked self-discipline; consequently I received discipline.
That discipline came in the form of letters of counseling and letters of reprimand. Luckily, I came to my senses before I felt the sting of discipline that comes with an Article 15. 

One day after accumulating one too many speeding tickets, my first sergeant, Senior Master Sgt. Cook, sat me down and asked me one simple question, "Do you like wearing that uniform?" 

Being a sharp Airman I said, "Yes, or course." 

He said, "Fine, then straighten up or you won't be wearing it for much longer."
My wake up call had arrived. It was either live up to the Air Force standards or hang up my uniform. 

The Air Force hasn't changed much in 20 years. We still have those who have self-discipline and those who lack it. Supervisors still hand out LOCs and LORs, and occasionally a commander imposes some non-judicial punishment. What has changed is in 1987 the Air Force strength was about 607,000, almost double of what our target strength of 316,000 is today. 

In a nutshell, the Air Force is getting leaner and meaner. The days of one, two, three strikes you're out are over. 

We can't afford to expend energy on those who can't discipline themselves. The Air Force needs men and women who can adhere to the Air Force core values without being pushed and prodded into our way of life. 

I'll close with what I tell the students of the First Term Airmen's Course here at RAF Mildenhall. 

"You can either have the self-discipline to adhere to the Air Force way of life, or you can have discipline imposed upon you and find yourself saying, 'Do you want fries with that?' It's your choice." 

Editor's note: Master Sgt. Barnklau is the Additional Duty First Sergeant at Det. 2, 25th Intelligence Squadron, RAF Mildenhall.