Leadership and Discipline
By Maj. Eileen Kirkland, 366th Force Support Squadron Commander
/ Published September 02, 2010
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- As a squadron commander, I am often challenged to administrate fair and equitable discipline involving a variety of infractions. This administration of discipline is absolutely essential to maintaining our unit's high level of good order and discipline.
For each infraction, I spend a tremendous amount of time discussing the situation dynamics with my leadership team: first sergeant, deputy and chief. Ultimately, I understand that as the commander, the final discipline decision rests on my shoulders. However, for each infraction, I try to ensure I am looking at all the parameters. Consequently, I try to weigh the pros and cons of each possible disciplinary action and ensure that my decision is in the best interest of our Air Force.
Recently my chief, who is deployed, sent us an article written by Col Frank Freeman III, 380th Expeditionary Mission Support Group Commander. The article is entitled "Do you know your Air Force credit score?" This is a great article explaining how everything we do reflects positively or negatively upon our careers.
I have been blessed to be the commander of a truly wonderful squadron. Yet, this squadron does have some of the most unique leadership challenges I have ever dealt with during my 18 years of active-duty. When one of my people gets into trouble due to an off-base altercation in a parking lot, a speeding ticket, a failure to show, etc., I use the whole person concept, meaning I reflect upon data points such as whether or not this person has been in trouble before and to what extent? I try as much as possible to give first-time offenders a reasonable break. A person who makes an honest error in judgment will hopefully learn from the infraction and make the necessary lifestyle changes to avoid being a repeat offender. However, in contrast, a true knucklehead has the propensity to screw-up repeatedly and must be dealt with accordingly.
In addition, I try to take into account factors such as what may be occurring within the offenders' personal life? Is this person going through a nasty divorce, dealing with adultery, recent loss of a family member, or is there anything else causing stressors that might be contributing to the infraction? Consequently, I do try to consider the member's stressors as contributing factors as well as ensure the member is afforded access to the assistance they need to work through their stressors. Yet, that fact notwithstanding, the maintenance of our unit's good order and discipline depends upon my ability to hold the member accountable through the appropriate administration of discipline.
The execution of effective discipline is a continuum between "reaching" the offender with the precise level of discipline in order to affect a lasting, positive change in behavior. Letters of counseling and reprimand are just pieces of paper unless there is something on that paper impacting a person's time and money. Often, it is hard to get an offender's attention with mere words.
Actions speak louder than words and the most effective actions are often those impacting the offender's pay and time. Ultimately, while the administration of imposed discipline is one of