When "Brown" was a second lieutenant and knew almost nothing about the Air Force, he requested his first official leave. He dutifully filled out the leave request form, his commander gladly signed it, and, when the approved time came, Brown took 18 days of well-deserved leave.

Second Lieutenant Brown was completely unaware, however, that he was supposed to sign more paperwork when he returned from his vacation. Three weeks after his return, Brown was tracked down by the unit administrative clerk, who politely but firmly directed him to complete this post-leave paperwork, which Brown promptly did after apologizing for being a "dumb lieutenant."

Eight months later, Brown was scanning his most recent Leave and Earning Statement (LES) when he noticed he had more leave days credited to his balance than he thought he merited. As a wave of fear crossed his mind, he pulled out every LES for the past eight months and realized the 18 days were never deducted. He suspected this problem was caused by his inadvertent failure to complete the post-leave paperwork in the time required. His ignorance caused him to be late; and because he was late, the paperwork fell through the cracks, and he wasnít charged for the leave.

In other words, because of something he did, he had 18 extra days of leave--days that could be sold back to the government for thousands of dollars when he eventually retired from the service. That is to say, because of something he did, he was in possession of something valuable that properly belonged to his employer, and he had a strong obligation to give (not sell) it back.

"Isnít this stealing?" he asked himself, "and isnít it a felony to steal something worth thousands of dollars? I should have noticed this 8 months ago. No one will now believe this was an honest mistake, so I better not tell anyone whatís happened."

That was eleven years ago. Today, Brown is a senior captain on the promotion list for major, and he is currently serving as a squadron commander. Those 18 days are still credited to his balance, and he feels guilty about it.