Taking risks; the good and the bad

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Todd Robb
  • 319th Operations Group first sergeant
Remember the last time you ventured out in a totally new direction, unencumbered by anyone's expectations but your own; an individual goal focused on learning or becoming something (or someone) new? Usually, whether you succeeded to your satisfaction or not, you probably gave yourself a pat on the back for even putting forth the effort. Conversely, do you recall a time when someone else -- a teacher, a parent, a spouse, a friend -- prodded you to try something that you might not have attempted without their external urging? What happened when you succeeded ... failed? Who was the first person you thought might be pleased ... disappointed? 

I raise these questions because they point out a distinction that is too seldom appreciated when we are trying to help our "Airmen" (yes, all of us) accept new challenges -- the advantages and disadvantages of taking risks or good risks versus bad risks. 

Risk taking is defined simply as doing things that involve risk to achieve something. Pretty simple, huh? More often than not, we involve risk in our every day decisions without ever even thinking that we're risking something. Think about it, you take a risk every morning or evening, depending on when you go to work, just simply by getting into your car or riding your bike and traveling to your duty section. Whether you live in town and travel 20 to 30 miles to the base, or you live on base and travel two to three minutes, you are inherently taking a risk just to get there. The risk is not knowing what could happen on the way there ... the unknown. 

As I stated earlier, there are good risks and bad risks. Let me give you a personal example of a good risk. Just a little more than 18 years ago, I raised my right hand at the Military Entrance Processing Station and said the oath of enlistment, thus starting what has been a wonderful and fantastic career in the military. There have been many risks that I have taken over the last 18 years, but I want to focus on that one in particular ... mainly because had I not done it, I would not be here today writing this article, nor would I have experienced the phenomenal benefits the Air Force provides to each and every one of us. 

Stop and think for a minute, no matter how long you've been in or affiliated with the Air Force, what taking that risk has done for you. While you think about it, I'll give you a brief snapshot of what it has done for me. Since enlisting, I've had the pleasure of six different assignments around the world. I've seen more places in the world than most of our civilian counterparts could only imagine or read about. I've had the opportunity to go on countless deployments where again, our civilian counterparts have only heard about through what media tell them. 

As I said, I've had six different assignments. My third was to Charleston AFB, S.C., where the best part of my career came to be. No, I'm not talking about awards or promotions; I'm talking about meeting my future wife and daughter. Again, taking that risk so many years ago, finally led me to Charleston and pure happiness. 

Charleston also provided me with another opportunity, and that was to become a first sergeant. If I weren't a first sergeant, I most likely wouldn't be here today, and probably wouldn't have the opportunity to address all of you in this forum. Once again, taking that risk has led me to where I am today, doing the thing I love the most ... serving my country and having the greatest job in the military. How much more could I ask for? 

Since I shared with you my own personal risk that turned out well, let me share with you a couple examples of bad risks. Remember what I said earlier? We all inherently take risks when we get into our cars or on our bikes to go to work. Well, we also have an inherent responsibility to live by the core values every day. Living by the core values will help you make the right decision when it comes to risk taking. 

About a year ago, there was an individual who decided to make the wrong decision ... to take a bad risk. The bad risk was writing fraudulent checks and making fraudulent wire transfers to the tune of approximately $70,000. This individual probably thought that they could stop at any time, but it became addicting and they couldn't get away from it. Without going into detail, here is what happened. The individual was tried by courts martial, reduced in grade from E-3 to E-1, received a bad conduct discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and six months confinement. 

Another example would be one of our many driving under the influence charges that Airmen here at Grand Forks have been guilty of over the years. Just recently, we had a senior NCO who made a bad decision ... took a bad risk. This individual took it upon themselves to operate their vehicle while intoxicated. Without elaborating too much, here is what happened. This individual was tried by courts martial, confined and reduced in grade from E-7 to E-5. 

Were the choices that either of these individuals made worth giving up the careers that the military provides? I think not. But again, we all wake up every day and have the same responsibility ... exercise good risk versus bad risk and make the right choice.
There is one thing that holds true in the military no matter where you are ... our support system. Whether it is your family, friends, the community or programs on base, support is always there.

Thank you to all who serve, military and civilian alike. But more importantly, thank you to all the family and friends who support our military and civilian workforce each and every day. With your support, the decisions our personnel make are that much easier.