Commentary

June 6, 2014

Are you up for the challenge?

Senior Master Sgt. SCOTT HARRIS
56th Operations Group

We in the Air Force are facing challenging times as both individuals and organizations. We are in the middle of several force shaping efforts to trim nearly 25,000 Airmen from our ranks. I want to look at the trials facing many squadrons, groups and wings across the Air Force.

Initially, these organizations were tasked with helping Airmen prepare for the possibility of being selected for separation and assist those selected to successfully transition to civilian life. Now these units have other challenges. What will organizations do without those people chosen to separate? Some units could have up to 10 percent of their force separate in less than a year. Although we have an idea of the number of people to be separated, the future of positions within organizations is yet to be decided.

How does a unit keep up its mission while so many people are preparing to separate? How does that same unit keep going after those people have left? How do we take care of those Airmen who remain to accomplish the mission? Those are the tribulations I want to address.

When faced with challenges, I see people usually react in one of two ways. Some people tend to “buckle down,” put on the blinders and power through. This is my typical approach when dealing with adversity. Regardless, if this personal method works for me, it might not be the most effective technique for an organization. We can’t just tell our Airmen to buckle down or continue preaching we are “doing more with less” indefinitely.

Other times, people are overwhelmed by the extent of their hurdles and simply give up. As alluring as this may seem to some, Air Force leaders can’t even give it a passing thought. We owe our Airmen and our nation much more – quitting is not an option.
Helen Keller once said, “The world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming.”

She exemplifies resiliency and showed that we have the ability to choose whether we remain in our suffering or overcome it.

I think we have to look for a third approach by looking for an opportunity in the challenge. We may even have to find opportunity in the test. This opportunity is the chance to refocus on effectiveness and mission accomplishment while discarding whatever does not contribute.

We must encourage our people to know what we do, how we do it and also why we do it. Do we do things because that is the way it has always been done? We have to begin by focusing on what we need to achieve. We may find some of the steps we usually take to meet our desired end state don’t actually contribute to the effort.

We have entered trying times. Throughout the history of our country and our Air Force, we find most great changes, innovations or inventions came when they were needed most. Although we may not be in the most difficult time in the history of the Air Force, there is a definite necessity for change.

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” – Plato




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