Are your boots polished?

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Jay Euler
  • 48th Maintenance Group
A few years ago I read a book about Gen. George S. Patton that covered his career and leadership style. In the book, General Patton was quoted as saying “If you can’t get them to salute when they should salute and wear the clothes you tell them to wear, how you are going to get them to die for their country?” Those words still resonate and are quite appropriate especially when I see someone not following the rules. 

With that now in your mind, I would like to ask you to look down at your boots. Are they polished? If not, why? Do you care? Do you need a haircut? Does it conform to Air Force standards? If not, why? Do you care? I could go on with this dress and appearance quiz but I would prefer to address the bigger issue/question. 

“How can you be trusted to work on a multi-million dollar aircraft, perform a medical procedure, conduct an audit or process someone’s assignment if you can’t do something as simple as polishing your boots?” 

We began our Air Force careers as young Airmen and whether you’re an officer or enlisted each of us has spent time in some form of basic training. I continue to hope that we have not forgotten the foundation that was laid during those long days with military training instructors breathing down our necks. 

We were provided rules by our MTI and we followed them to a “T” or paid the price. Nowadays it seems some foundations have cracked or completely crumbled because of a lack of discipline and accountability. 

Today, in the absence of an MTI we have supervisors looking over our shoulders to guide us and Air Force instructions to use as a rule book. Here’s a question for all you supervisors. What are you doing to or for those troops that aren’t “polishing” their boots? Are you an example to follow? Do you pick and choose which instructions to follow? Is the dress and appearance instruction optional? Are your job specific instructions optional for you? The last time I looked in an AFI it read “compliance with this publication is mandatory.” Have you taken the time to read the rule book? Have you explained it to your troops and are sure it is being followed? 

No one is perfect. I’ve made a ton of mistakes in my Air Force career. There were times when I did not polish my boots, but luckily I had a supervisor that followed the rules when I stepped out of line. I have tried to live up to his and the Air Force’s expectations ever since. We need people like him; we need people like you enforcing those rules. Someone not afraid to correct a troop, explain why it’s important to drag a brush across your boots or trim your hair. 

Younger troops desire a leader that’s not afraid to hold them accountable; they need you to be a leader. With AFIs as rule books and a commitment to enforce those rules, you can’t go wrong. Make that commitment to do it by the book; lead by example. Show those young, future leaders that you care if it’s done right and will
correct them if it’s done wrong. 

There are many fantastic Airmen, NCOs, Senior NCOs and officers that play by the rules. Many of you do remarkable things, rise above many challenges and take advantage of opportunities presented to you. You have maintained that strong foundation and made it stronger by being great leaders and role models. Your boots are polished and you can get them to salute. What about the rest of you, are your boots polished?