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Honorable discharge: Are you working on it?

  • Published
  • By Col. Sean Cassidy
  • 607th Air Support Group
What?! Is this guy kidding? He's asking us what we're doing to work toward an honorable discharge? That just seems so terminal, why would anyone be thinking about getting discharged, already?

OK, OK, let me explain myself here. Of course we all start our Air Force careers by raising our right hand. After that, we train, train, train and work, work, work to ensure our Air Force is providing Global Vigilance, Reach and Power at the highest professional standards. But, with the start of any career, we will someday reach the end. This conclusion of our Air Force service may come when our first term of enlistment is up, or may be retirement at the end of a 20-plus career.

Regardless, in the end we are discharged from our service. If all goes well, you receive an honorable discharge. And that's my point! Are the activities you are doing today going to result in your honorable discharge?

The word "honorable" is an adjective, which has several meanings. The dictionary defines it as "consistent with an untarnished reputation; characterized by integrity." (Hmm, I see a buzz word there from our core values.) So, as you link "honorable" and "discharge," you can see that as you leave the service, you should have a discharge from service that is characterized by integrity, with an untarnished reputation. This seems pretty straightforward, but are you thinking about it during your service?

During my 26-year career, I've worked with many, many fine Airmen, whose intent was to serve just an initial tour in the Air Force. I'm proud of these Airmen, but I always remind them to "Do your service with honor." Whether a person just wants to do a four-year stint, or a 30-year career, my message is always the same ... honorable service.

Now, let's bring this home. Are the activities you do on or off duty honorable to your service? Let me be blunt - are you purposefully neglecting a part of your duties (not following tech data), or partaking in underage drinking? If so, this is not in line with honorable service.

In recent history, some senior Air Force leaders were not allowed to retire at their present grade ... no, they were retired in the last grade they served honorably. Sounds like the "tarnished reputation" I mentioned above. On top of that, it hit their checkbook for the rest of their lives! As you separate or retire from the service, potential future employers may be very interested in whether you left with an honorable discharge. Not having an honorable discharge could impact your future employment, which could translate to less earning potential - less money!

As you go through your tour here in Korea, keep your honorable service in mind. Is it worth it to play the curfew game, beat the underage drinking rule, sneak into the off-limits tattoo parlor? Is it worth it to forge the official document, skip the checklist step or share some controlled prescriptions with some buddies? Each of these actions, among others, could easily take away that honor from your service, and subsequently, from your discharge.

Remember, one day in the future, you will be discharged from the world's greatest Air Force!