The rules will set you free

  • Published
  • By Maj. Robert Moore
  • 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
One of the first projects we had at Officer Training School was to develop a leadership philosophy. We were heavily tasked at OTS and I rushed through the project, since I just wanted to turn the assignment in on time. Little did I know the philosophy I developed in haste would still be with me 14 years later. 

My philosophy was: Maintenance 101, do your job by the book, leave everything you do better than you found it, and have fun. The last two elements haven't changed over the years; however, as any member of my squadron can tell you, Maintenance 101 has evolved into, "The rules will set you free!"

It is pretty easy to understand the concept of "leave things better than you found them" and have fun, but what in the world does "the rules will set you free" mean? When most of us think of rules we think they are designed to restrict you from doing certain actions or obligate you to do certain things. I agree with that definition, as does Webster's Dictionary, which says rules are "that which is prescribed or laid down as a guide for conduct or action." It sounds like rules restrict you more than freeing you, right? Not exactly; it is all a matter of perception and attitude, which is why I love rules and believe they truly set you free.

In the military, rules definitely have their place and are designed to protect you and your fellow Airmen. This is highly visible in aircraft maintenance where every time we launch a jet, the lives of the aircrew and passengers on the aircraft depend on maintainers following technical data and safety procedures. Aircraft maintainers deal with many potentially dangerous situations while performing their duties. Technical data is there not only to protect the people who operate and fly the aircraft, but the maintainers as well. Over the past several years, Airmen have been killed while accomplishing maintenance on the flightline. In each on-duty death I am aware of, the individuals involved were not following technical data and standard safety procedures: the rules.

Rules are necessary for good order and discipline not only in the military but in almost every aspect of our lives. I could not imagine driving down Division Street if there weren't stop lights, speed limits and laws about driving while impaired and using cell phones. Knowing there are rules and that someone is there to enforce them is liberating. It gives me the freedom to get in my car and drive without fear for my personal property or life. Enforcing the rules is also a critical part of freedom. As I have traveled all over the world in the last 26 years, I have been in several places where driving rules were in place but not enforced. Mentally, that took away my freedom.

Knowing and following the rules is important in the day-to-day life of every Airman in every career field. It gives you and the people working around you great peace of mind to know you are doing the right thing. When the boss calls and says he needs to see me right away, I never worry that I did something wrong. When an aircrew flies a jet, they don't worry about the safety of the aircraft. When I see a doctor at the Medical Group, I know I'm getting outstanding treatment. I never worry about my family's safety on base because we have an awesome Security Forces Squadron. Knowing and following the rules keeps everyone free from punishment by their supervisors, first sergeants and commanders. It also keeps you free from jail time and fines or from the legal system downtown when off duty.

Doing what you are supposed to do and not doing what you aren't supposed to do is just the tip of the iceberg. With what you must do and can't do firmly established, there is a wealth of great things you can accomplish that aren't covered by the rules. Don't spend your time complaining about the rules. Instead, concentrate on the things you are allowed to do. There are many avenues to improve our operations to maintain our status as the best Air Force in history and to ensure our freedoms. From formal programs like AFSO21 to just plain common sense, you are free to make a difference within the rules or change the rules if the need is validated.

The rules definitely set you free and the best part is, freedom allows us to be more productive and find better ways to accomplish our mission. Coincidently, this fits perfectly into the next phase of my philosophy, leave it better than you found it. Finally, if we follow the rules and utilize them to leave things better than we found them, we arrive at my favorite part of the philosophy: Have fun. You work hard every day and provide a great service to our country; you all deserve to have fun.

Thank you for everything you do for our great country.