Good to be a "Bad Guy"

  • Published
  • By Capt. Bradley D. Altman
  • 18th Aircraft Maintenance Unit
I once worked with a senior master sergeant who I often praised for his willingness to be "the most-hated man in the room." This comment always did two things: shock everyone within earshot and bring a smile to his face.

Most of the people who heard me say this simply thought I was insulting him, but he knew it was my way of saying thank you.

Obviously, he didn't earn this distinguished title by being overly sympathetic or understanding when it came to dealing with both his subordinates and his superiors. But he also didn't earn it from being disrespectful to them either. No, this prestigious honor was placed upon him because he was painfully honest, painfully blunt, and he always refused to walk by a problem no matter how big or small. These traits not only made him my go-to guy but also the backbone of our squadron.

Every unit needs someone who is not afraid to call it how he sees it; a "bad guy"--if you will--who always corrects an issue or problem on the spot.

Too often, organizations don't have individuals willing to take a hard stance and be the "bad guy" every day. Instead they have individuals who worry about office conflicts and choose to only enforce the rules and regulations they deem critical.

Whether individuals do this intentionally because they don't think it's a big deal, or unintentionally because they don't know the long-term results are the same--the unit suffers. When this happens, your unit slowly loses its discipline and you start having issues throughout the organization.

Before long your supervision starts asking you questions that have no definitive answer like "what happened" or "what's going on?" I'm sure you've been in units where they blame it all on the next generation of Airmen as being undisciplined and unfocused, when it was you and I who let it get this way by not consistently enforcing basic Air Force standards.

Don't believe me? The last time you saw an Airman with their haircut out of regulations, did you correct them? What about the last time you saw someone wearing a winter cap without a jacket? Or someone who was not wearing a reflective belt when it was dark outside? We're all to blame to some extent.

In the past year the Air Force had some major incidents that have negatively affected the way the outside world views us. A slew of incidents, highlighted by several high-visibility mistakes, have identified underlying issues such as a lack of leadership involvement, a failure to hold people accountable, and a failure to follow written procedures.

All of these things can be easily fixed by focusing on instilling discipline in our unit, and refusing to walk by our problems. Essentially, we all need to do our best "bad guy" impression and get a little more comfortable being "the most hated person in the room."