Why is the chief so adamant about standards?

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Darryl Gagne'
  • 23rd Component Maintenance Squadron superintendent
I relish in the fact that I am the "old guy" in my unit. For those that do not know me that well, my stubbornness and sternness come from nearly 30 years of military experience. It comes from seeing what makes a good unit successful and what drives a bad unit into the ground.

I know the formula for a successful unit. Are you ready for this? It is discipline and standards! The same stuff each of you learned in basic training.

In basic training you were taught how to dress properly, style your hair, speak professionally, follow specific instructions, and march in a straight line.

My drill instructor Staff Sgt. Sailing, who was an aircraft crew chief by trade, stated, "If you can't follow the rules we give you here, how can I trust you to follow tech data when someone's life depends on it?" And it's that very statement that I have remembered for the last 29 years.

The best units I worked in had high standards and strictly enforced discipline. Following the rules was part of the culture. I can't remember people doing unethical, illegal or immoral things in those units. Everyone knew what needed to be done -- and they did it with pride and dedication.

Our leadership set that tone. They had high expectations and if you stepped out of line -- the hammer fell quickly. Morale was high because the squadron ran like a fine tuned clock. We kicked (you know what) and were proud to come to work and proud of the job we did!

One of the first "old guys" I met when I first joined the Air Force was Senior Master Sgt. Antonowitz. He was "old" to me. I was just 18 years old and at my first duty station, Plattsburg Air Force Base, New York.

Sergeant Antonowitz noticed I was not wearing my hat properly, and as a one-striper, he could have just chewed me out and demand that I wear my hat the correct way. But to my surprise he didn't do that, instead he challenged me! He bet me a soda that I could not wear my hat properly for an entire month. And of course, I took that bet!

During the next month I would see his face every day in the window of his office watching me come from the parking lot. He was determined to catch me, just once. Needless to say -- I won the bet. However, wearing my hat the correct way had now been permanently ingrained in my soul thanks to Sergeant Antonowitz! A basic standard -- ENFORCED!

There have been many "old guys" (and young ones too) that I have met during my long career that have left a permanent impression on my bearing and values and I am grateful for every one of them. I did not realize it at the time, but now I realize that those were the individuals who really cared about me and wanted me to succeed. The one's who challenged me to be better, to be the best I could...

The formula for a successful unit starts with high standards and expectations. Follow that up with rules that are enforced by fair and equitable discipline and you have the foundation for EXCELLENCE. Mix the two together and any unit will have high morale where self discipline is the norm and people do the "right things for the right reasons" all the time.

This is why I am known as a "hard (you know what)" when it comes to standards and discipline. For example, when it comes to our physical training sessions, they are not about physical fitness, that in my opinion is just a bonus benefit. For me, it is about discipline to show up and do it -- even when you just don't want to. It is also about standards. Passing your PT test is a basic standard the Air Force has.

If you can't meet that basic standard, then "How can I trust you to follow tech data when someone's life depends on it?"