By Chief Master Sgt. Roddy Hartsook, 79th Medical Wing command chief master sergeant
/ Published March 29, 2011
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- Okay, did I at least get your attention with the title? I hope so because what you're getting ready to read is important, actually, it's critical, for our Air Force to be successful now and in the future. The bottom line - everyone MUST be at the top of their game, with regards to performance, if we're going to continue to be the premier air, space, and cyberspace force. When I say everyone, I mean just that--enlisted, officers, civilians, and contractors alike--we MUST all be at our best! Why so critical, today, 2011, you might ask? ... Well, let me try to explain.
After having done this "AF gig" for well over 26 years now I've come to see things a bit differently and it has dawned on me that, wow, my how things have changed. Some of these changes have been for the better, some not so much. Don't get me wrong, I'm the first person that will tell you that change is good. Without change, stagnation sets in, and then things really go bad. Anyhow, in my opinion, many of the changes, say over the past 20 years or so, have made the individual worker/Airman/person (whatever you go by) even more important. So now let's look at why, specifically:
- You think we've shrank? Let me answer that question ... yes! When I joined the Air Force in 1984, we had approximately 650,000 people on active duty. Our civilian and contractor numbers were a bit smaller than they are today, but overall, we were a "fat" AF back then. In fact, we were so "fat" that those who performed mediocre could get by quite comfortably; we had many other folks standing by to pick up their slack--their lack of top-notch performance. If they were really bad (and you know what I mean), we could hide them somewhere--we had plenty of people to get the job done, and get it done well. Of course, then came the early 1990's and our most senior leaders decided it was time for personnel numbers to take a cut, they recognized that we were way too big and needed to trim the "fat." When it was all said and done, by the mid-1990's, our AF stood at around 350,000 personnel on active duty. Talk about a cut! To add to that, we recently underwent even more cuts and are now down to around 332,000 personnel (and falling). Yes, we are getting smaller. So, do you believe we still have people just waiting in the wings should you be unable to perform? Absolutely not. Fact is, you, as an individual, have to be at your best. We have many shops, many jobs, many critical positions that are now simply "one-deep." If you don't think you're critical, I challenge you to look around and reassess--you could be the difference between success or failure, we need you at your best, we have very few, if anybody, to pick up any slack you might have.
- We're at War. Unlike when I joined in 1984, today we are at war. Some of you might think of yourselves as someone simply just performing a day-to-day function on a base, but the fact is, everything we do supports the national objectives of our country and its leadership. Obviously, for those of you that deploy often, it's easy to understand why you have to be good at what you do. I'd contend that it's just not you that HAS to be good--it's all of us. Whether you shuffle papers, fix equipment, maintain an aircraft, ensure a network's up, clean teeth, secure the perimeter, load cargo, fight fires, whatever, you ARE contributing to our war efforts, and therefore, you have to do the very best you can. A nation at war deserves your very best performance. There is no room for shortcuts, there is no room for mediocrity. In the words of Chief Brinkley: "You have to DOMINATE!"
- The budget and cutting waste? Ahhhhh, now here are a couple of subjects that most people tend to shy away from or give very little thought. I think they're both great reasons why we have to be darn good at what we do in today's Air Force. Why? With today's tightening budget, we must all look to save resources, we can do this through eliminating waste. I know, sounds like you're getting ready for an AFSO21 briefing from the Chief! Uhh, sort of. Fact is, don't be scared by AFSO21, it's just a fancy way of saying we want to find easier ways of doing things that save time, money, and effort, and give our "customers" more bang for their buck. It's all about cutting out the things we don't need to do, things that don't provide any value to the people we serve. Yes, it's all about cutting waste. So, who's in the best position to know what needs cut, what's not very smart to do, what could be improved? You bet, YOU ARE! If you're at the top of your game/performing at your best, you'll be better at recognizing and cutting the waste. I don't care who you are, you can make a difference here, you can save money and you can eliminate things that simply don't need to be done.
Okay, I think that about says it all, you really can't suck at your job in today's Air Force. I ask all of you to please take a moment and ask yourself if you're really doing all you can to be the best at whatever it is you do.
I'd like to take one short paragraph here to address the enlisted force specifically. Please ask yourself these questions: Are you doing everything you can to get the most out of your training? Are you and your team constantly trying to find ways to improve the functions you perform? If you're a non commissioned officer, are you doing everything you can to be the technical expert? You know, there's a reason why we call E-6s technical sergeants--it's because they should be the absolute technical experts at whatever job they're trained for. For all you technical sergeants out there, I ask you, are you the experts? For our senior NCOs, are you creating the environment needed for all your people to perform at their peak, so they can be, or will become, the expert? Ask yourself these questions.
I appreciate all of you taking the time to read and internalize this information. I use the terminology "can't suck" to grab your attention and get a point across, but in reality, that really does say it all. We are a nation at war and what this base does, what all of you do, is critically important to our success. I leave you with a quote from the great Bob Stoops, Head University of Oklahoma head football coach ... "We're going to keep getting better as we go. I believe there's great potential. Are we there yet? Obviously not. But we're going to keep trying." I ask all of you, are you going to keep trying, are you going to keep getting better so WE can be the best?