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Oops I did it again!

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- While watching a Britney Spears' video, hearing the words - Oops I did it again - is no big deal, but when you're a supervisor they get a very different reaction. It almost always signifies that someone has made a mistake, often a mistake they've made before. While the adrenaline is rushing through a supervisor's veins it's important for them to remember a few key points. 

First, unless this mistake caused an injury to someone it can be repaired. I've seen forklifts overturned, vehicles/aircraft damaged and equipment sent to the wrong organization (just to name a few errors in my 26 years) and though each one took a considerable amount of work to correct they were correctable. So before you fly off the handle take a deep breath and look at the big picture, if no one is injured be grateful for that and set about fixing the mistake rather than focusing on hanging the person who erred. 

Second, think back to your past and remember that it's likely you made this or a similar mistake yourself, possibly even worse. Mistakes happen, the Air Force provides technical orders, Air Force Instructions and manuals for us to follow. But we're human and we make mistakes. Most are unintentional and are made simply because of a lack of attention or a lack of experience on a particular task. When you made your mistake was it intentional or did you simply lose track of what you were doing? More importantly when you made your mistake did you learn from it? 

Third, don't waste the opportunity. My father used to tell me "a hard lesson is a quickly learned lesson," and believe me, I have learned many things in my life "the hard way." But those mistakes and the lessons I learned from them helped make me who I am today, a chief master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. Each failure or mistake is a chance for you to develop and guide your subordinates. Use the experience to teach not only the one who made the mistake but any others who perform that task as well. Learning from the mistakes of others is a very valuable teaching tool, and is quite often forgotten in the mad rush to place blame. 

This brings me to my final point. 

Don't rush to judge and don't crucify the person who made the mistake. Nothing good will come of that. Fix the error, find out what caused it and take action to prevent it in the future. One of my old supervisors, the late Larry DeWitt, used to tell me, "the only person not making a mistake is the one not doing anything." This advice was usually given as I was explaining to him what I had to do to fix something I or one of my Airmen had done incorrectly. No one is perfect, we all make mistakes, it's how we deal with them and learn from them matters. There are many defining moments in life, don't let a mistake become a negative one. 

The 509th Bomb Wing has the finest Airmen in the Air Force. The records of inspections and real-world mission results document that fact, yet we still make mistakes. I ask you to learn from them, teach others how to prevent the same mistake and remember that as humans we are not perfect. At times we will miss a step or forget to finish a task, but if we keep ourselves focused on supporting the mission and constantly strive to improve how we accomplish our mission, any mistakes can make us better in the end.