Customs and courtesies set the stage for success

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas-- -- In first grade, I met the cutest, smartest girl in the world. Later that evening at dinner, I had to mention how wonderful she was to my Dad and I asked him how I could find out if she liked me.

He told me it was a "custom" for a young man to give a girl something special to show her that he was interested in her. After dinner that evening, I went out in the desert by our house and found the best gift I could think of--a Horned Toad! I took him home and wrapped him up in my old Lincoln Logs can. The next day, I presented her with my gift.

The results were not even close to what I had expected. As she opened up the can, her soft smile and grateful blush quickly transformed into the most horrific expression I had ever seen, promptly followed by a scream that set off a wave of panic and chaos in the class. The sight of not only the toad, but a dead one, was too much for her. Unfortunately, I didn't know about air holes for breathing and maybe the aftershave I put on him didn't help either!

The point here is when we serve in the military we don't have to figure out which customs and courtesies work, as that has already been done for us and taught at all Air Force initial training.

Seemingly common customs like saluting, standing up when a senior person walks into your office or work area, and using phrases such as "yes sir or yes ma'am" instill reverence and provides respect to not only the individual, but also to the entire profession we serve under--and yes, this includes civilians.

It has never made sense how something so integral to our profession could be so mistreated or ignored by some. A while back I saw an individual that was walking down the sidewalk cringe with apparent fear and dive into a nearby hedge to avoid saluting a staff car! Following that person's example, all our adversaries would need to do is put white tops on their vehicles and we would never win a battle!

As ridiculous as that sounds, it is no more illogical than failing to render proper respect. When I see someone snap a proper salute, it fills my soul with pride and conviction. They are communicating the fact that they are proud, professional, confident and willing to execute their duties- serving our great nation without hesitation!

This single non-verbal gesture conveys more true meaning than a thousand spoken words. This small gesture is no more evident than at our front gates. When we enter Goodfellow and are greeted by the best Security Forces personnel in the world, exhibiting the sharpest customs and courtesies, there can be no doubt that from that point forward you are safe and secure. It is their unwavering example that instantly instills confidence in their ability to do their job!