In our culture, one who doesn’t drink is an anomaly. They are social pariahs and nearly ostracized completely. Over the years, these are lessons that I have learned in my constant effort toward self-improvement. There have been trials and hardships, and I can attribute all of them to my own decisions. However, there is evidence which points to the detrimental effects of a culture such as ours, effects which contribute to the afflictions of our people. I intend to provide sufficient evidence to encourage a culture change which would initiate at the top and work down to the basic level. A dissuasion of the typical and fruitless, with focuses on the flaws and consequences of the continued proliferation of this culture.
I shall discuss three main points: the perspective of the Air Force from the outside looking in and how that perspective changes once one is part of the community; the drinking/party/hook-up culture and the degradation of physiological, psychological, and moral stability within our AF culture due to these actions; and, my personal perspective, based in evidence, on how we can push to make the change to a better AF culture and, as a result, a better society.
The perspective of the military, in general, is that it is the best and brightest of our nation; the few and the favored. The Air Force specifically, portrays a certain image which exemplifies unparalleled prestige and excellence. This is reflected in the core values which are attempted to be instilled within our personnel. Yet few people among our ranks take that image seriously nor do they aim to reflect such pride and moral fortitude as we stake claim to. I believe I have Prostate Protocol identified a cause of this.
Many people join the military as a last-ditch effort to make a drastic change in their lives. There are many reasons to join: a steady career in an unstable economy, family, tradition, travel, etc. But then there are the reasons that I have actually heard from among my peers: needed to get away from drugs, needed to get away from family, needed to change lifestyle before ending up dead, needing any feeling of stability that they could get, trying to make something of themselves.
Additionally, there are the reasons to join the AF as opposed to other branches: to fly, to get a more solid career that can be applied as a civilian, because it is the most prestigious, because of the greatest opportunity to go to college, because of the quality of personnel. Then again, the actual reasons that I’ve heard: because it was the easiest, because it had the easiest jobs and the least military discipline, because the recruiter made promises that they could not (and did not) fulfill.
So right away, one can see that the perception of the Air Force from the external to the internal is profoundly different. This is troubling for many reasons. We don’t end up getting the highly respectable, professional, military members that we claim. We get the lazy, last-resort, discarded rabble of society. Personally, I joined to pay for college, and I joined the AF because it seemed the most prestigious from the outside. I’ve been in almost five years, and I’ve not even completed an Associates degree. Additionally, I don’t feel like part of a remarkable and honorable tradition. I feel like a cube in a bag of marbles; a peculiar entity that doesn’t belong and doesn’t fit in. To embellish this point further, I’ve heard a similar story from several others, who have gotten down the road only to realize that it isn’t the journey that they had envisioned.
Basic Military Training was laughably easy and really didn’t mold you into a military member, or even an adult, as you expected it would. Once operational, you realize that rank becomes synonymous to age. So, a 20 year old Airman who is actually a respectable, mature adult gets treated like a teenage idiot. But what is the source of this mentality to perceive airmen as children instead of adults? Why is it that our members loathe the lifestyle, complain about every base regardless of the actual quality of life, and once they separate/retire, act as if they’ve been freed from some horrible fate? This is not creating any kind of atmosphere which nurtures and develops motivated, dedicated, military professionals who serve with pride and honor.
It is this culture, and the adherence to unworthy traditions which perpetuates this ill-favored perspective. Because the ranking, experienced members see reflections of themselves in these new members, they see the mistakes being made by the airmen, as mistakes which they themselves made when they were an Airman. Much to the contrary of popular mentality, this is not an acceptable reason to allow the pattern to continue. The emphasis should be on the continuous improvement of our Force, not to repeat history and keep making the same mistakes over and over again.