Who’s watching you?

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Norm Thierolf
  • 80th Flying Training Wing superintendent
Back when I made chief master sergeant, they would send you to a major command orientation course, or as we jokingly referred to it, "Chief's Charm School."

One point that was continually briefed by senior leaders was how once you make chief master sergeant, you live in a fish bowl. You become watched and your actions are more closely scrutinized than ever before.

This is definitely true. The more rank you put on, the more you stand out and your every move and action is watched by the masses.

I made chief at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. While I was there, the installation commander had a base policy that during the hours of darkness or during times of limited visibility, everyone in uniform must wear a reflective belt.

One day I stopped by the club after work. It was in the fall or winter and was getting dark as I arrived. I parked my truck right out front not far from the entrance. As I exited my vehicle I put on my reflective belt.

When I got inside the club, a staff sergeant, who was a friend of mine, was there and he greeted me by joking around about my "disco" belt. I told him that as a chief master sergeant, one of the most important things I could do was to wear my reflective belt. It didn't matter that I worked at the headquarters and the four-star was our commander. It was the installation commander's policy that everyone in uniform wear their reflective belt.

I explained to him that even though the chances of a vehicle running me over in the short walk from my truck to the door were almost non-existent, it was the fact that if I, as a chief, didn't follow the rules, then I would be giving a license to every other enlisted person out there to not follow the rules.

As I relate this story to being here at Sheppard, it isn't just the chief master sergeants and senior officers who are being watched. With over 5,000 Airmen-in-Training here each day, every permanent party enlisted and officer on this base is being watched.

Sure, a chief master sergeant or a colonel might stand out more and be watched more closely, but the Airmen who are here in technical training are looking to the permanent party Airmen, NCOs and senior NCOs as role models. If they see us not following the rules, whether it be dress and appearance, customs and courtesies, driving on base while speaking on our cell phones or walking past a piece of garbage that is laying on the ground, we're telling them through our actions that the rules aren't important. 

Rules, standards and professional conduct are at the core of what we do in the military and in our Air Force specialties. This is not just an instructor and military training leader issue. We all must set the proper example for these Airmen who will eventually grow into the NCOs and senior NCOs of tomorrow.

So, if you think that you're not being watched because you're one of the thousands of Airmen and NCOs on Sheppard and don't deal directly with Airmen-in-Training, you are wrong. You are being watched, and what you do today will form what they do in the future.