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In uniform -- What kind of image do you present?

by Airman 1st Class Andrea Thacker
Thunderbolt editor

When in public, Superman's S isn't saggy; Spiderman doesn't spit on the sidewalk; Wonder Woman doesn't use foul words and Mighty Mouse doesn't cut the cheese. Just as these fictional heroes must maintain a positive image while in public so should members of the military, who in the eyes of many are our country's real-life heroes.

Recently a couple of servicemembers from MacDill were at a local mall when they were noticed by a retired officer who was disappointed with their behavior while in uniform. When the retiree approached the members to question their behavior, he said he was told to "shut up" and mind his business.

"That type of behavior reflects poorly on the service," said Tech. Sgt. David Stewart, 333rd Recruiting Squadron. "It should be avoided at all costs."

The servicemembers in question would have been wiser to wear civilian clothes to the mall, but either way they have a standard of discipline to which they should adhere, especially while in uniform, Stewart said.

"You are representing the military when you are in uniform," said Stewart. "If you do something to discredit yourself in uniform, you are discrediting the military. You have the responsibility to maintain the standards of appearance while in uniform. You could embarrass yourself as well as the uniformed service you are representing."

Now more than ever the nation is putting its faith in the military and as the war with Iraq moves forward, it is imperative to look sharp, said Stewart.

"How we wear our uniform and the image we portray while in uniform, cuts directly to the core of the impression America has of her USAF and military," said Chief Master Sgt. Lew Monroe, 6th Air Mobility Wing command chief. "If we are sharp and crisp in uniform, the public sees a capable and dedicated force; the opposite can be drawn when we are less than presentable in uniform. The perfect parallel is the fact we would not have much confidence in a dentist with dirt under his fingers and blood all over his smock."

Stewart reminds all military members that dress and appearance is something taught early on.

"Set the example," Stewart said. 'You have a responsibility and a duty to do so. Hold yourself and each other accountable. If you see an infraction, make the correction."

Each servicemember has an obligation to look smart, but for Senior Airman Jacob Lafine, 6th Vehicle Operations Flight, ironing uniforms and polishing boots is something he does everyday. He believes everyone in the Air Force should take personal responsibility for their appearance.

"Dress and appearance is a matter of pride, you can press your uniform because you are told to but you should do it to look sharp and to express your sense of dedication and respect for the uniform and what it stands for," said Lafine.

Even though Lafine works on vehicles and is surrounded by dirt, oil and fuels every day, he continues to take pride in the uniform he puts on each morning. "I put effort into looking sharp," said Lafine, who with the skill of Superman disguises his grease monkey role from the public. Lafine said when he walks down the street people see an airman of United States Air Force, adding, "I must represent that (image) to the fullest."




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