Standards ... a slow fade

Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. -- Recently the Air Force announced the results of its investigation surrounding the inadvertent loading of nuclear-tipped cruise missiles on B-52s at Minot Air Force Base, N.D. To those of us entrusted to serve our nation and protect our way of life, if the story weren't true, we would find it so unlikely and far-fetched that we would dismiss it as impossible.

Unfortunately, it is true, and we are left wondering how it could have happened.

The failures didn't just start happening one day. They happened over time and were a slow fade to the results we now know.

We are guilty of allowing the same slow fade to creep into our daily practices. Do you see uniforms worn improperly? How often do you see people driving while talking on the cell phone without using a hands-free device? Do you see drivers speeding through base housing?

Unfortunately, we see it all the time, and every time we allow it to continue we establish these substandard shortcuts as legitimate. We should never allow a shortcut to become the standard.

We are the most powerful Air Force in the world and the greatest enemy we face is already inside the wire. The enemy is us. The enemy is every person who tolerates substandard performance and allows the slow fade to continue.

It's past the time for toleration. It is time to uphold the standards and pay attention to the smallest details. We are the guardians of freedom and justice - our nation's sword and shield - and we must remain dedicated to integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.