One minute to think can save life long problems

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Stephen M. Shrewsbury
  • 36th Wing Staff Judge Advocate
As the Staff Judge Advocate for Andersen, one of my most important duties is to administer the base's military justice program and advise commanders at all levels to ensure that Article 15 actions, courts-martial, and other adverse actions are appropriate, fair, and expeditiously processed. 

I regularly discuss disciplinary issues and make recommendations to the wing commander concerning the future of our many Airmen. Most of these matters could have been easily avoided if only the Airmen involved had used a little common sense and heeded Andersen's words to live by: "I Can Save My Own Life." 

"I Can Save My Own Life" is more than a motto; it's smart living. General Owens has stated on numerous occasions that individuals are responsible for their actions both on and off duty, and on or off base. It applies to any activity that could potentially impair your ability to get your job done, not only as an Airman, but as a husband, wife, father, mother, caregiver, or wingman, as the case may be. 

As citizens, when we consider our actions, we measure them against societal norms-what we were taught by our parents and others-and the most common measuring rod, the law. 

Of course, most active duty Airmen understand that several sets of laws apply to them --local and federal law, as well as the Uniform Code of Military Justice. What most Airmen don't know, but should, is that the UCMJ isn't just a set of specific laws. It also gives commanders the ability to charge Airmen criminally for any activity that can be shown to be discrediting to the Armed Forces or prejudicial to good order and discipline. 

Here's a good example: Being "drunk and stupid" may not be a crime for the average civilian, but it often is for Airmen. Why? Because our leaders have decided over the last 200 plus years that military members must be held to a higher standard in the interest of our national security. Part of that duty requires that the public trust us to do the hard job of protecting that security. Back to our example, if we can't control ourselves in public, how are we expected to control ourselves in the heat of combat? It's a matter of trust. That's why engaging in, as one wing commander called it, "buffoonery," can be a crime for a military member. 

For the most part we Airmen do a great job. The American public's high regard for military members is proof of that. 

Sadly, there are a consistent few who just don't get it. They ignore their oath of office and engage in criminal, dangerous, or just plain dumb behavior that negatively affects their families, units, and mission. So much of this can be easily avoided if we just stop and think for a few seconds before acting. It's called making the right choice when it counts.
As you consider the choices you make as members of Team Andersen and the 36th Wing, get into the habit of asking yourself just one simple question before you act: Would my action if it were known or seen by members of the public discredit the Air Force, or would it potentially affect good order and discipline at Andersen AFB? 

If the answer to that question is "yes," it is not a responsible choice. If you proceed anyway, not only will you have failed to make a good choice but you may also be on your way to committing a crime under the UCMJ. 

As General Owens has stressed, we are expected to take care of the others around us, but before we take care of others, we must take care of ourselves. 

In the event you are faced with a situation where there is a little voice of doubt about a choice you are contemplating, first reach into your "common sense" pocket and pull out some change, seek the advice someone you trust in your unit, your commander or first sergeant, see the chaplain, or contact the legal office. 

I guarantee, with just a little reflection, you can make the right choice, still have great time off duty, and get the mission done for yourself, your family, and your Air Force.