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Commentary: Are you a good ambassador?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David Steele
  • 909th Air Refueling Squadron Commander
Are you a good ambassador? At first glance this appears to be an easy question to answer. Without much thought, the vast majority of us would respond with a resounding "Yes." However, if given some time to think about the question and reflect on our everyday actions some of us may not be able to respond with such enthusiasm or even the same response. The Webster's Dictionary definition which best covers those of us serving on behalf of the United States abroad is "an authorized or appointed representative or messenger." As a representative of the United States it is important that each of us conduct ourselves in a manner that reflects well on our country and our citizens. The question each of us must answer is "Am I a good ambassador?" 

There are obviously numerous examples of U.S. citizens acting as good ambassadors here in Okinawa. Some of the more notable are your tireless efforts to support AmericaFest, Special Olympics, community and local beach clean-up projects, and visits to local orphanages to name just a few. Your participation in these events and willingness to engage with and support the Okinawan community does not go unnoticed by the majority of local citizens. We know this because of the large numbers of Okinawans at these events as well as the many words of gratitude and genuine affection expressed by those in attendance or affected by your service and support. 

Unfortunately though, the goodwill established through all the positive examples can be overshadowed by just one incident of improper conduct or eroded over time by smaller, less obvious displays of misconduct which have been emphasized in the "That Guy" advertisement campaign on the Armed Forces Network. Everyone has come across "That Guy" somewhere during their lifetime. They are the individuals who on the weekends draw attention to themselves through overindulgence of alcohol. They are the people that weave in and out of traffic as they drive down Hwy 58 at excessive speeds. And they are the people that wear inappropriate clothing or make inappropriate remarks or gestures while out in public. In short, they are the people that give the rest of us a bad name in the Okinawan community. 

As you read the paragraph above, If you found yourself among those that could be considered "That Guy", please take the time to reflect on your behavior, on the consequences your conduct has, and the impression it gives the local community about Americans in general. 

The ability of the US military to execute its mission on Okinawa and the off-duty enjoyment each of us strives for on our down time is largely dependent on how our host nation citizen's and their government view us, not as individuals, but rather as a group. It is for this reason that being a good ambassador is so important. Individual actions do not reflect only on you, but the rest of us as well. To those that are being good ambassadors, keep it up. To those in the "That Guy" category, the next time you are out and feel a "That Guy" moment coming on, do the right thing and suppress it or remove yourself from the situation. 

It does not matter if you are active duty or civilian; we are all guests in this country and we have the responsibility to behave as a guest should. Each one of us serves as a representative of our country while we are abroad - we are all ambassadors!