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Are you part of the solution?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Nathan E. Schalles
  • 6th Security Forces Squadron commander
As our Air Force, military, and nation make the transition from continuous armed conflict to a time of reduced ops tempo, shrinking budgets, and reduced manpower it is clear that the environment we have become accustomed to is rapidly changing. Many of our senior leaders have challenged us to adapt to this change in various ways such as saving money, improving efficiencies and just doing things smarter. There are many ways to respond to such changes and challenges. The Air Force has given us numerous analytic tools and processes to help give structure to decision making and improving efficiencies, it all starts with your attitude. How will you respond?

To look for examples on how to face these challenges, we only need to look to our own service history. There are numerous examples of innovation, assuming risk, and trailblazing concepts set by many of our service pioneers and organizations that have proved successful. During WWII, Gen. Churchill Kenney led numerous innovations in an under-resourced Pacific theater such as skip-bombing and an unorthodox method for transporting two and a half ton trucks in C-47s. The Air Force special operations community has had a long history of being under-resourced, but innovation and flexibility has been a hallmark. One such example is the birth of the gunship by mounting weapon systems into the side of a mobility aircraft allowing a continuous volume of fire on the enemy. Col. John Boyd developed the energy maneuverability (E-M) theory that led to the development of the F-15, F-16, and A-10. He was also the creative mind behind the aerial attack study and the famous OODA loop. They all saw a need or a better way and pursued it.

Despite all of these successful ideas being heralded over the years, each one faced its own detractors. Leaders refused to execute the skip-bombing technique because it was such a departure from the accepted tactic at the time. The idea of a gunship had been proposed several times over the 40 years before the first AC-47 was built. Lastly, many in the Pentagon were not receptive to the E-M data that showed all of the Air Force fighters, current and in design, were inadequate. Many ideas are such a departure from the norm, they receive significant push back because in one way, shape, or form they violate the principles of "Team No" (those who find every reason why something cannot be done). Common principles and sayings from Team No include "the AFI doesn't say we can do it; it's always been done that way; and protect manpower, budgets and programs," just to name a few.
Do you see ways to be innovative, efficient, and effective or are you comfortable with the way things have always been done? How do you handle the ideas your Airmen bring to you? Do you foster them, ignore them, or suppress them? Are you proud that your Airmen are thinking and developing solutions or do you feel challenged? The Air Force as we know it is changing. Are you willing to answer the challenge and be part of the solution?