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Doing The Right Thing

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Vic Guerra
  • Pennsylvania Command Chief Master Sgt.
Integrity - Doing what's right...not because someone's watching but simply because it's the right thing to do, or not to do. It's one of our Core Values - Integrity First - and an important value at that. More often than not it's the "or not to do" part that we often struggle with.
Just because we can do something, doesn't mean we should. For instance...your car's in the shop and you borrow a friend's or neighbor's car, and the car has a Disabled Veteran license plate. It's a weekend during the Christmas holiday season and you're headed to the mall to do some shopping with your family. You get to the mall and the parking lot is packed! You drive around for quite a while looking for a spot to open up. You and your family are getting frustrated and then you spot several unused handicapped parking spots. There are quite a few open spots you think to yourself...the car you're driving has a Disabled Veteran license would be easy just to pull into one of the spots...maybe the spot furthest from the front...hummm. While you could park in one of the spots without worrying about getting a ticket or having the car towed away, it wouldn't be the right thing to do. No one in the car is disabled or handicapped. Not parking there takes and shows integrity. It sounds simple but it can be challenging at times.
In the military, we're directed and guided by rules and regulations. But rules and regulations cannot always, and often do not, cover every scenario or situation. If they did, we'd need a heck of a lot more storage capacity for our computers or shelf space in our offices. In some instances, the regulations are very specific and leave no room for interpretation. In other instances, while they may tell you what you can do, they don't always tell you what you can't do. This is where leadership must play a role in determining the right thing to do. We as leaders (yes, I'm addressing don't need to be in a leadership role to be a leader), need to do what we can to do the right thing when we find ourselves in a situation where there may be room for interpretation.
When I find myself in these situations, I often ask myself how I'd handle the situation if I was running my own business, for which I've worked hard to establish and maintain. As the owner, how would I handle the situation, how would I spend money, who would I select, what decision would I make, etc.?
Other option is to do a "sanity check" with your peers and/or supervisor, or to seek out an expert. There may be someone who has already "been there, done that" and may be able to help.
Bottom line is that if it doesn't feel right, look right or sound right, it's probably not right. Typically the easy thing to do is not the right thing to do. We may not always make the right decision; we are only human after all and make mistakes from time to time. But we can learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others, and continue to strive to do the right thing.