Dedication to Compliance

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Richard Nash
  • 721st Security Forces Squadron
In an Air Force full of “shalls,” “musts,” and “wills,” total compliance is something that I don’t think is ever achievable.

The statement “COMPLIANCE WITH THIS PUBLICATION IS MANDATORY,” is written across thousands of directive Air Force publications that Airmen are ordered to follow, but in the end, no Air Force member or organization can know of, or completely comply with all requirements. When internally or externally inspected, our inevitable violations are categorized as minor, significant, or critical.

Are these violations a measure of our commitment to the Air Force and its mission? I believe the answer is no.

Violations will happen, however, the important measuring stick is how Airmen and organizations use standards of conduct, for example the Air Force Core Values, to better comply with the thousands of written orders they are given.

My intent with the above statements is not to minimize the importance of written orders by authoritative publications. Air Force publications are necessary to ensure that standardized processes and by-law requirements are followed by over 600,000 total force personnel. My intent is to acknowledge the fact that it is impossible to be in compliance with every requirement at all times, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is not doing anything about that fact.

Even though 100% compliance can never be achieved, it is still the duty of Air Force personnel to identify and minimize violations. Using the Air Force Core Values is vital while continuously striving to meet this goal.

Having “Integrity first” is more than just doing the right thing when it comes to compliance. Sometimes situations may occur where doing the right thing by Air Force standards is hard, or even impossible. Integrity may mean having the courage to identify violations even if doing so will “rock the boat.”

Organizations are often reluctant to change, especially when mission success is high. Identifying rule violations is everyone’s job and should be encouraged, however, when things are running successfully, change agents are often discouraged. We must strive to not only do the right thing when no one is looking, but also identify the right thing to the unreceptive. On the other hand, leaders must have the openness to be receptive when violations are brought to them.

The biggest challenge I see in regards to compliance and the second core value of “Service before self,” is having faith in the system. To knowingly not comply with Air Force requirements is to believe you know better than the leaders appointed over you. Sometimes requirements and processes seem utterly cumbersome and nonsensical, but disregarding the standards is not an option given to us. We must have faith our leaders have written these processes for a reason and we must strive to educate ourselves to understand the bigger picture.

Achieving “Excellence in all we do” is easier said than done. To me, excellence is something more evolutionary than static. We all know that members of the Air Force must continue to pursue personal development in order to be successful in the Air Force but the same is true for an individual’s or organization’s adherence to standards. When I think about the easiest way to conduct self-development, it is to pursue education. The same is true for compliance.
As stated above there are thousands of Air Force publications. Reading, studying, and complying with them is a responsibility of all Airmen at every level of leadership. It may be possible to be in compliance by mistake if you haven’t read the requirements, but it is impossible to be excellent in all that you do by mistake. Excellence takes work.

The inability to follow all Air Force standards is not something often discussed, but is a struggle that individuals and organizations face every day. The best tool you can use to help minimize compliance violations, may be one of the first things you learned in basic training, the Air Force Core Values.