Taking ownership and accountability for your actions

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- “Shirt, it was not my fault.”
“Shirt my supervisor failed me.”
“Shirt, the Commander and Chief are just out for me.”

If someone asked any other First Sergeant how many times they have heard this, they probably would start to smile. They smile because it is what we as First Sergeants hear on a routine basis. However, I learned two important things way before I joined the military over twenty years ago, and if we, as Airmen, abide by these, most of these comments I mentioned above would not exist. The two things I would like to talk about are ownership and accountability.

I remember to this day when my high school football coach would yell at me and say “Morey, own that position and take accountability when you do not.” I played the cornerback position, and if I did not do my job, receivers would run pass me and catch touchdowns all day.

Fast-forward to my joining the Air Force – it’s the same concept. As a new Security Forces member, I owned the main gate. No-one was going to enter the installation without proper credentials. When I allowed someone to pass through the checkpoint, I took accountability of my actions. Only now with higher stakes. Instead of touchdowns being scored on me, it was people’s lives at risk. Taking ownership of that checkpoint was a job which I was entrusted to do.

This concept also applies to personal decisions we make. Committing a sexual assault or child pornography to drinking and driving are choices we make for which there are consequences. When we make good choices, such as volunteering or taking college classes, we reap positive rewards. No matter what choices we make, take ownership and accountability for your actions. That being said, I will be the first to tell you that it is okay to make a mistake every once in a while. Waking up late for work, forgetting about your medical appointment, or miscalculating your funds are mistakes. We are all human, but still take ownership and learn from these mistakes.

If I told you that you will fail at nothing or that I never failed, I would be lying to you. Airman could fail their quality control evaluation, Career Development Course test, fitness assessment or even a college class. These are things that could occur in our lives. But if you should make a mistake or fail, take a realistic assessment and own up to that mistake or failure. Take accountability, and I promise you everything will work its way out. May not always be the way you want, but it will work its way out.

You’re probably saying to yourself now, “Shirt, that is not true, we do live in a one mistake Air Force!”

I would beg to differ. Not just because I am a First Sergeant, but because I am a product of taking ownership and accountability of some decisions I have made in my career, both good and bad decisions. Taking ownership and accountability of my actions have led me to where I am today, a USAF First Sergeant - and I’m loving every minute of it!

So, next time you say to your supervisor or First Sergeant, “it wasn’t my fault” or “they’re out to get me”, how about saying “I will take accountability of my actions, but can you help me rebound and steer me in the right direction?”
It will not always be easy, but I promise you, the end results will be worth it. Many of us have been able to progress based on Ownership and Accountability of the decisions we’ve made – I have, I know you can, and I know you WILL!