RESPECT…an easy concept to promote teamwork across Kirtland

  • Published
  • By Scott Wakefield
  • 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The queen of soul Aretha Franklin wrote about a simple demand on how she wanted to be treated with “Respect” in her Grammy Award winning song of the same name in 1968. It became an anthem about getting and giving respect within our communities.

However, since the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, many in our nation have forgotten or ignored the concept of respect as more and more individuals have taken out their frustration and anger on others, specifically members of the customer service industry.

These frustrations have started to find their way onto Kirtland Air Force Base. Over the past few months, there has been an unfortunate increase in general disrespect toward customer service practitioners on the installation. Customers have directed their ire and harassing behaviors at gate guards, medical and pharmacy technicians, and personnel specialists just to name a few.

Col. Amy Rivera, commander 377th Security Forces Group, says Kirtland’s Defenders feel disrespected, taken for granted and ignored by many people who try to use their rank to intimidate at the gate.

“Personnel are berating [the gate guards] during traffic surges and for waiting while cars ahead of them are turned around for not meeting entry requirements,” said Rivera. “Over time, this degrades our Defenders trust and morale.”

Rivera also suggests that individuals need to take some personal responsibility and do their homework to know what the entry requirements are before arriving at installation gates.

“The Defenders [at the gate] do not make the rules…they enforce them,” said Rivera. “We need to get back to a foundation of mutual respect with a focus on polite customer interactions.”

She also points out that gate guards have other duties besides checking identifications. In the past year, the Defenders have provided safety and security to the base by restricting access to more than 9,000 unauthorized personnel, confiscating 1,500 expired and stolen I.D. cards, and preventing 70 felons and 23 sex offenders from gaining base access.

In a letter to Air Force Global Strike Command base members and security forces commanders, AFGSC commander Gen. Tom Bussiere, acknowledges that Air Force Security Force Defenders are being met with “unwanted/harassing behavior.”

He goes on to say that the role of our Defenders is to ensure the safety and security of our Airmen, Guardians, their families, and Air Force resources and they shouldn’t be harassed or disrespected in the performance of their duties. He has demanded that this behavior must stop.

“My expectation is clear…all forms of harassment are unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” Bussiere said.

As commander of the 377th Air Base Wing, Col. Jason Vattioni reminds members of Team Kirtland that this type of behavior is not only unnecessary, but runs counter to what is expected of them under the UCMJ and federal government employee standards.

“The safety and security of our Airmen, Guardians, and civilians servicing Kirtland is our utmost priority,” said Vattioni. “Confirmed instances of threatening or harassing behavior will be dealt with.”

Rivera points out that individuals who are discourteous and disrespectful makeup a minority of the base populace, and she’s appreciative of those who go out of their way to commend Kirtland’s Defenders and thank them for their service.

Security Forces Defenders aren’t the only ones that are experiencing aberrant behavior from their customers. Chief Master Sgt. Knicole Akins, senior enlisted leader 377th Medical Group, says that her pharmacy technicians have also saw an increase in belligerence directed at them, including a female patient slamming her purse against a clinic plexiglass window and the use of racial slurs.

“It’s surprising and frankly unacceptable that some of our veterans and other beneficiaries feel they’ve earned the right to be disrespectful to our personnel who are only trying to do their jobs,” said Akins. “Our technicians are trying their best to provide safe, quality care.”

If patients have issues, Akins relayed there are mechanisms in place, such as Interactive Customer Evaluation (ICE) or the patient advocate, that allows senior leadership to address those concerns.

Akins also reminds us through the words of Laurence Sterne, “Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners.”

So, to take a page out of Aretha’s book, R.E.S.P.E.C.T., that’s all we’re askin’.