Culture Change? Here?... Everywhere!

  • Published
  • By Col. Joe Ortega
  • 8th Medical Group
Change. It's the world we live in while serving during this new century.

Sometimes it's hard to keep up. The changes taking place put more pressure on each one of us. The world is a smaller place and getting smaller by the day. Scrutiny is never far away. As the world changes it affects you personally. It places responsibilities upon you that were never there before. This is the age of responsibility and responsible choices. Individual actions now have strategic consequences.

Let's illustrate with a recent example. Early one morning, Airmen severely assault a Kunsan taxi driver. Within five hours, it's front page news in Seoul. Koreans are discussing it. Calls fan out. It's on the internet. Diplomats begin calling each other and discussing it. Generals are calling discussing it. Everyone is discussing it. Now the Departments of Defense and State are aware. Washington knows. It isn't even noon yet. Now what's more important for these people to concentrating on? Nuclear proliferation, economic growth, free trade agreements or the actions of a couple Airmen? Which discussion would better advance the cause of peace and freedom?

So why do one American's actions matter so much? In Cold War days, most countries were faced with a stark choice - align with capitalism or live under communism. If you weren't with one, you'd likely be with the other. If you enjoyed freedom, you certainly did not want to be a communist state. Thus, most countries put up with some buffoonery on our part. Said another way, individual misbehavior was more likely forgiven by nations, especially given the alternative.

But now any suspect behavior ends up on the path described above. Why? Because nations and allies no longer face the stark choices of the Cold War. Their choice is no longer American influence versus Russian influence, no longer freedom versus communism. The only remaining choice is American presence or no American presence.

We are blessed to serve the greatest country the world has ever known. Many are angry at the fall of the U.S.S.R. Many others are jealous of what the United States has. Some don't like having a single, unchecked superpower out there. Some may even believe what media and critics say about Americans - that we are greedy, coarse, rude, environmentally uncaring, self-centered, etc. So every time we behave that way we validate their thinking.

For whatever the reasons, as the United States Air Force gets smaller, realizing the environment in which we serve becomes more critical for each one of us. The United States and its foreign policy count on every Air Force member behaving professionally, both on and off duty. We count on every member's good judgment in actions to further our nation's strategic objectives - that all people on the planet have the opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

You might say "That's not what a military does! That's not my job!" To which, I will tell you simply... "the world has changed." What is expected of a military force is not what it used to be. As you look back at history, you read about actions of past military forces, like the Huns, the Turks, the Romans, the Trojans, etc. Past military behaviors, like pillaging, burning, raping, wanton destruction, etc. are no longer accepted. And they certainly don't help further peace and freedom. As a matter of fact, any suspect behavior casts doubt in any relationship, including those between friends and nations. Besides, we Americans are better than that.

Thus individual's actions have strategic consequences. Some of our problems are related to the atmosphere here at Kunsan, specifically related to alcohol use. We need Kunsan to change with this ongoing world change. The Air Force needs it to change. We need Airmen to make good decisions both on and off duty. In our Air Force, we need a culture of responsible choices. We need to remind ourselves of this need frequently. And we all need to be those leaders who make it come to pass. Aim high.