Let your conscience be your guide.
By Col. James Fontanella, 315th Airlift Wing commander
/ Published April 04, 2014
JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C -- Let your conscience be your guide.
That's pretty simple advice. We all remember the story of Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket and from our childhoods, and the horrible outcomes when Jiminy's advice was disregarded. The interesting thing is, following your conscience is great advice whether you're young or old, child or adult, wooden or real.
I find that it serves me well in my current position. True, I'm inundated with guidance memorandums, policy letters and Air Force Instructions, but for the most part, my gut often tells me very precisely the difference between right and wrong. I also believe that most folks have a pretty reliable conscience when given the opportunity to look inward and ask themselves if they know right from wrong, efficient from wasteful or productive from destructive. It's the choices that we make, by either knowingly accepting the guidance from our internal moral compass, or disregarding it for an easy out, that can get us in trouble.
Fortunately, our military services provide us with good core values we are all expected to live by. And they are intended to be 24/7/365, on and off duty, in and out of uniform. For the Air Force, we all understand "Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do." Start with what you know is right and make good choices to that will serve yourself, your families, your service and your country well.
Undeniably, we all make mistakes at some point. We are human and it is natural. What our conscience ought to tell us about corrective action after a misstep is to take responsibility for our actions, be honest with ourselves and others and move on. Mistakes are opportunities for growth and I'm a firm believer in education versus punishment to enable development.
Some circumstances can put us in a position where the right answer is that we shouldn't go it alone. We know that whether it's help with finances, relationships, substance abuse or other behavioral health issues, assistance is out there. All too often, many of our coworkers, and even loved ones, need help and won't take the initiative to act on what they know they need to do. Our Wingman culture encourages us to help each other out. It's our duty to point others in need toward the resources that are available. And if you're wondering whether or not you should seek help for yourself - you probably already know the answer. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn and grow before there are negative consequences.
I see amazing accomplishments from the people I work with every day. Truthfully, some make it look easier than others, but I acknowledge that most of our behaviors generally come from an intuitive sense within us. Consistently listening to our consciences takes strength, courage and resiliency, but it's within all of our powers to do it, and hopefully that little voice in your head reflects good, honest and principled ethics. Life is never as easy as children's fairy tales, but happy endings are far more likely if you choose to live your life by the guidance of your conscience ... whether or not you've chosen to name it.