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Our Common Purpose

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Andrew Norton, 375th Air Mobility Wing Staff Judge Advocate, and Lt. Col. Trent Hamilton, Individual Mobilization Augmentee to the Staff Judge Advocate

Why is it that every car moving slower than I want to drive is "holding up traffic," while any car driving faster than me is a "reckless maniac?"  When referees make a call going against a rival sports team, they are clearly making the right call, but when the call goes against my team they are blind and biased?!  Why is anyone who challenges my opinions a fool, while those who affirm me are brilliant?

This is known as the fundamental attribution error–we tend to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, but we won’t do that for others.  When it comes to someone else’s mistake, we see the obvious correlative relationship between that person and the problem, without considering the surrounding circumstances.  When it comes to our own mistakes, we are fully aware of all the factors outside of our control – and the full context of the situation – that led to our actions.  So yeah, it makes sense that we are all seeing the world through a self-centered lens. 

As United States Airmen, we must reject that selfish mentality.  We embrace the Air Force's core value of “service before self.”  We are propelled by love for our country, our communities, our families and each other.  We recognize that our teammates are strong where we may be weak, and we cultivate hearts that understand and encourage what each of us can contribute to our common purpose.  As our Chief of Staff General C.Q. Brown, Jr. so powerfully showed us:  “When I'm flying, I put my helmet on, my visor down, my mask up.  You don't know who I am—whether I'm African American, Asian American, Hispanic, White, male or female.  You just know I'm an American Airman, kicking your butt.”

This belief in a shared purpose worthy of self-sacrifice is what fuels the 375th Air Mobility Wing to be Combat Ready ... Showcase Worthy.  And it drives the Scott Air Force Base legal team's vision to solve problems, protect the Air Force, and defend the Constitution.  After all, it is the Constitution’s memorable Preamble that frames our common purpose:  “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”  

Every day, our team of JAGs, paralegals, and Civilian Airmen—active duty and Reserve—help our leadership, Airmen, and mission partners solve problems spanning the expansive Team Scott mission set, including:  

• Educating Team Scott personnel on ethics and standards of conduct to safeguard the American people’s trust in the Air Force as an institution of Integrity committed to defending their way of life— in other words – we do not use our public office for private gain. 

• Guiding Commanders, Supervisors, First Sergeants, and other leaders to enforce standards in a manner that is fair and trustworthy.  We advise on disciplinary issues ranging from administrative counseling to law enforcement investigations, and prosecute criminal offenses— drug abuse, larceny, domestic violence, and rape–in courts-martial.  

• Validating contracts and spending, to ensure funds provided by American taxpayers are spent appropriately and ethically to advance American air and space power.  

• Empowering operators to execute missions pursuant to international agreements, orders from higher headquarters, and other authorities.  

• Ensuring Scott Air Force Base facilities are operated in a way to advance sustainable operations and conserve the local environment.  

• Investigating and adjudicating claims for monetary compensation, such as damage to private vehicles caused by Government operations or certain severe weather events.  

• Monitoring drug testing program operations, to ensure our force is ready to fight while protecting the individual rights and privacy of military and civilian Airmen in the process.

• Advising on what Government records may be released to the public, such as official records requested under the Freedom of Information Act, to balance individual privacy rights and the Air Force’s need to conduct sensitive operations against the American people’s right to know what their Government is doing.

• Assisting Airmen, dependents, and retirees with personal civil legal needs, such as counseling on and preparing wills, powers of attorney, and healthcare documents.

• Advising on constitutional, Congressional, and regulatory authorities as our leaders guide our community through important but sensitive topics such as inclusion and diversity, racial equality, and COVID-19 health protection measures.

• And many more engagements across the installation.

Our national security depends on a disciplined and ready force.  At JA, our primary purpose is to advise commanders and help Airmen.  Period.  We strive to see the whole picture and give advice that will help us all reach a common goal—a Wing postured to execute global rapid mobility as we fly, fight, and win in our common purpose to defend the United States’ national security.