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'If you're a screwup, you're on your way out'

May. 7, 2013 - 10:12AM   |  
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Listening to Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody talk to airmen, a few things become clear: He doesn’t pull punches; he wants to know what’s on your mind, but won’t tolerate whining.

Cody ismaking his way to Air Force bases around the country to deliver a message of tough love to airmen.

At three recent airmen’s calls at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Cody’s message remained consistent: “If you’re a screwup, you’re on your way out.”

Case in point: If you are convicted of drunken driving, you are one and done, he said. But one noncommissioned officer got thunderous applause after he asked Cody why the Air Force is getting rid of airmen who made “poor decisions” by getting a DUI. Cody calmly replied that everyone makes mistakes, but a DUI is a crime, not a mistake.

“I have no problem looking every airman in the eye and saying, ‘Yeah, this is probably a one-crime Air Force,’ ” Cody said. “I’m going to fight to keep every airman in the Air Force who’s done everything we’ve asked them to do before I put one foot forward to fight for an airman who has clearly done things against the law — has clearly done things that are not consistent with serving in our Air Force in an honorable way.”

The Air Force is going to trim 3,340 active-duty airmen by Sept. 30, so if there has to be a cutoff, airmen who get a DUI will be below the line, he said.

“You don’t want me fighting for that guy with a DUI over somebody who was just promoted to staff sergeant … but they just can’t get a CJR [career job reservation], do you?” Cody asked, with some airmen replying “no.”

First-term airmen need a CJR to re-enlist, but the Air Force has restricted the number of CJRs in some career fields because of high retention. Airmen who do not get a CJR are put on a wait list. If they do not get a CJR by the end of three months, they are separated. Cody encouraged junior enlisted airmen waiting for a CJR to retrain for an undermanned career field instead of waiting for the job they want.

“At the end of the day, if we don’t need you to do that job anymore, we don’t need you to do that job anymore — and this is not a jobs program,” he said. “This is about service.”■

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