Something that I have heard often since I’ve been in the Air Force – and realize I repeat every time I meet a new Defender in the squadron – is that mistakes aren’t punished but crimes are. Failures are the best way to learn the right way to do things, but speaking from a career field that has been accused of “eating its own,” sometimes the distinction is lost (especially if you’re receiving paperwork). How can an individual fail in a “no fail” mission while still learning and moving forward?
Rather than try to figure this out on my own, I did what I’ve been raised to do – ask a SNCO. Thankfully, there was an answer from one of my SMSgts who summed it up as, “You succeed, mess up, screw up, or fudge up,” (to paraphrase A Christmas Story, he didn’t say “fudge”). I propose that we change the way we look at failures, and use this framework – “Mess Up, Screw Up, and Fudge Up” – to judge how bad a failure really is.