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NEWS | Aug. 12, 2015

Challenge for all Airmen?

By ?Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Robinson 437th Maintenance Group

It has been said, "You are either part of the solution or part of the problem."  The Air Force is facing numerous challenges today, putting this statement to the test for all Airmen.  Relating to the challenges of today's Air Force leaders, I am reminded of an article written by Laura Dimon in November 2013 called "Colin Powell's 13 Life Rules for Any Future Leader."  Rule #3 is one that we could all learn from as we face tough decisions. "Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when it falls, your ego goes with it."  General Powell encouraged all his subordinate commanders to argue with him.  He wanted them to do their best to convince him they were right and he was going down a wrong path.  However, Powell told them a moment would come when he would have to make the tough decisions and, when that moment came; he expected all to execute that decision as if it were their idea.  He would then refer back to rule #2 "I still love you, so get mad and get over it."  He was looking for people to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.  Many great leaders still believe in these rules and recommend they be placed in your leadership tool box.

Today's Air Force is faced with challenges like nothing we have encountered before.  From budgetary cuts, manpower reductions, realignment of aircraft, developmental special duties and a new enlisted evaluation system, it seems like our foundation is changing.  No doubt today's changes are shaping the Air Force for years to come.  While our leaders are making tough decisions affecting the careers and lives of all Airmen, it is of the utmost importance that we get these changes right.  Their decisions are not easy, many are not popular but, at the end of the day, these decisions are being made for the advancement of our Air Force today and tomorrow.

How can you help facilitate these changes?  Some changes are well above our pay grade and are better left for the policy makers.  How to distribute the C-17 fleet or phase out the A-10 aircraft is well outside our control.  But some changes are within our control, like the implementation of the new EES and DSD programs. You have more power than you may imagine and that power can either be constructive or destructive.  Which will you choose as the Air Force is facing the biggest challenges in its history?

Many people today turn to a variety of outlets to express their support for or against our leaders.  We express ourselves through social media as much as anything else; we post, share, tweet and blog about almost every topic concerning our careers and lives.  Whether we are in support or opposition of our leaders we "exercise" our constitutional right of freedom of speech and  take to the world of social media.  More often than not, it seems we have an axe to grind because we are unhappy with decisions and new policies.  These venues are used as a means to attack leadership decisions we disagree with because it's the easy way out.  As we face changes, remember the key to General Powell's rule #3 is communication.  General Powell encouraged his subordinate commanders to convince him he was heading down the wrong path.  To be effective, communication is required.  Social media is not the most effective form of communication. We need face to face communication without fear of reprisal at all levels.  This type of communication was successful for General Powell and I believe it is good enough for leaders at all levels during these trying times.  So, I challenge you to pursue face to face communication and avoid using social media to attack leadership's decisions.  

No one ever said supporting the decisions of our leaders was easy 100 percent of the time. However it is our responsibility, as Airmen, to do so.  I challenge you to live by General Powell's rule #3.  Question your supervisors when you feel they are heading down the wrong path.  You owe it to them and they owe it to you to listen.  But once a decision is made, WE owe it to all Airmen to support those decisions.  I challenge you to educate yourself and your Airmen about the changes we are going through.  How can you evaluate a decision if you don't know the details?  Finally, I challenge you to check the Airman in the mirror.  Ask yourself, am I doing my part to facilitate the Air Force changes?  Am I challenging my leadership to make the right decision?  Do I understand the decisions?   And most importantly, you owe it to yourself to be part of the solution.