Knowing root cause of disciplinary action help

  • Published
  • By Lt Col. James Baumgardner
  • 56th Component Maintenance Squadron commander
In 2006, 85 people left Luke before completing their term of enlistment via the administrative discharge process, a 67 percent increase from the previous year. 

This is a tremendous loss to our wing and Air Force. To counter this loss, Brig. Gen. Tom Jones, 56th Fighter Wing commander, has challenged the wing by setting a goal of reducing Article 15s by 50 percent in 2007.
Nobody comes in the Air Force to get thrown out; so why are they going?  We narrowed disciplinary problems down to three main drivers: fatigue and stress, transactional behavior and addiction. 

Fatigue and stress
Vince Lombardi said, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all," meaning when we are fatigued, we give into our passions and become self-indulgent.

 Dr. Steven Covey's book The Eighth Habit provides an insightful analysis of fatigue and stress. Fatigue occurs when we are out of balance physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  People attempt to deal with this stress and pain through self indulgence, such as over eating, drinking too much or drugs. This leads to spiritual stress because we are not listening to our inner voice or conscience. Once people
enter this doom loop of misalignment, they inevitably crash with the effects of a DUI, failed urinalysis, suicidal ideation, divorce or domestic abuse.
So how can we avoid getting out of balance? Covey suggests, "The body is a good servant but, a bad master." By mastering our passions and ourselves, we gain strength and balance. By disciplining the body and remaining physically fit and eating a healthy diet, we can maintain our balance of mind, body, heart and spirit.
Transactional behavior
I had the opportunity to work with Dr. David Baskin, a clinical psychologist, on a lean transformation team. After Dr. Baskin made the rounds collecting data, he identified one of the organization's biggest problems as transactional behavior.
Fundamentally people respond in the way we treat them. We learn three common odes of behavior: parent, adult and child. When we treat a person in the role of parent e.g. tell them what to do or try to control them), they will respond back to us as a child rebel, argue, act out). If we treat a person like an adult (e.g. with mutual respect) they will behave like an adult.  
When I go into a section and see graffiti on the bathroom walls or people with their feet on the table (malicious obedience), I target the leadership.  When leaders allow transactional behavior to go unchecked, it can drive serious behavioral, performance and morale issues. 

As we entered the information age with all its benefits, we gained immediate access to other vices, such as gambling and pornography, in addition to the standard vices of drugs and alcohol. Addiction is one of the hardest behavioral problems to identify and correct. It's easy to allow someone's behavior to go unchallenged and we have seen how unchecked addictions can lead to catastrophe or even suicide.
Addictions are easier to break when we catch them early; it is true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In our squadron, we use the wingman to combat addictive behavior.  The wingman is not there to tell you what you want to hear but, what you need to hear. When you're out with your buddy and he or she drinks a six pack a night, you need to call them on it. Ask them what their goals and objectives are and are they being proactive in reaching those goals?
By changing our focus to these three root causes; fatigue and stress, transactional behavior and addiction, I believe we can reach the wing's goal, save our vital resources and reach our full potential.