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NEWS | Aug. 28, 2009

Whose job is this?

By Col. John Long 316th Mission Support Group commander

My family and I arrived at Andrews Air Force Base June 8. As you can imagine, we were filled with many emotions as we made our 14th move. A new home, a new job, a new community ... After all, we were all coming to the launching point for the president, Cabinet, senior military leaders, Congress, and we were now living here; it was all a bit much to take in.

That was until I started to drive around the installation and get to know my new community: a place where I would work, worship and play. Albeit we were not new to the National Capital Region, spending 2000-2003 at the Pentagon, I was surprised to feel cool temperatures (cooler than I remembered) and green grass for this time of year. But then I saw it; I saw a lot of it: pieces of white against a green background. So I began to stop and take a closer look. What could these white objects be?

Much to my surprise it was trash. I found it on the roadside, in parking lots, and on that green grass. I thought to myself, 'certainly someone must have seen this large McDonald's bag filled with garbage in this parking lot; certainly someone must have seen this 32 ounce plastic drink cup on the side of the road; certainly someone must see all these cigarette butts in the flower beds.' But if people saw it, why was it still here?'

Maybe I have a different view of what it means to work and live on this installation, but let me put it in context: Many of you have lived or do live in a neighborhood that has a homeowners' association and covenants you must agree to abide by to live there. I am sure you take pride in your house and your neighborhood. I am sure if you saw a McDonalds' bag filled with trash on your sidewalk you would pick it up. I am sure if you find trash in your flower beds you clean them out. So, I ask all of you, why do you tolerate it here where you work, and some live and play?

We should not. The next time you see someone drop their trash in something other than a trash can, stop them and ask them to dispose of their garbage properly. Tell the individual to pick up the cigarette butt they threw in the flower bed or on the sidewalk, or to pick up their water bottle they threw on the grass.

This all starts with a cultural change whereby people begin to respect the installation much like they already do their own neighborhood. We need to breed good behavior and correct bad behavior. We need to instill a sense of community, a sense of common courtesy and good citizenship in all who come to Andrews. This is our place of work, our place of worship and our home.

Whose job is it to pick up the trash, to keep the base looking nice, to be courteous and be a good citizen? The answer is easy: It is mine and yours. It is our job. So I ask you to be aware of your surroundings, and, when you see trash, don't walk or drive by it, pick it up. Take pride and take ownership, and, most of all, do not tolerate the actions of those who don't. Just imagine what Andrews could look like every day with 15,000 sets of eyes looking 10 feet to the left and right and 10 feet to the front and rear.