Change - adapting to the pendulum swing

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. John Dougherty
  • 460th Mission Support Squadron
Everyone is gearing up for the ski season. 

With the push of fall weather, comes winter and snow. 

I never get used to the change, and I seem to dislike the snow as it spouts down from the heavens each winter. The one thing about the weather change that keeps me focused is the change itself -- I know it will change again and soon spring will be upon us with warmer weather and bright sunshine. 

The Air Force is enduring serious change and, unlike the weather, a return to the days of a hearty force is not going to happen. The way each of us deals with change will define the success of a much leaner Air Force tomorrow. Force reduction, programmatic budget decisions and increased deployments are our future. 

Keeping a positive attitude is an important ingredient in this change, but more importantly, grabbing the pendulum and swinging forward is crucial. One of the pendulum swings we all must endure is force reduction.

The Air Force must reduce the service's end strength in fiscal year 2007. The target date of Sept. 1, 2007, looms ahead for vulnerable force reduction candidates. Force reduction programs impact everybody. The Selective Early Retirement Board is targeting our senior officers in the grade of lieutenant colonel and colonel. 

The Date of Separation Rollback program placed a red dot on enlisted personnel with less than 14 years of service or those who have served more than 20 years. The officer corps between six and 12 years of service is also on the road map to fewer people. How does one deal with the sudden thought of being separated from the Air Force? My beliefs follow two paths -- those who are ready and those who are not. 

To ready for this prospect, Airmen must realize the Air Force can't and more importantly won't keep everyone in the targeted groups. Embrace this opportunity to take stock of your life and define personal goals. Some personnel identified for separation will have time to plan -- others won't -- so don't waste another minute. 

Now is time to ride the pendulum and get a professional financial health checkup. Analyze your long-term, and more importantly, short-term financial status. Determine if you could survive for three, six or nine months following your transition. Review educational goals and complete the degree that's simmering on the back burner. Grab your pencil and the job resume--take time now to tweak it and have a friend or coworker edit the product. 

Don't wait until the last minute. Many blue suit warriors are joining the job market. Set your resume apart from the pack. The message is clear: many Airmen are vulnerable for an unplanned transition to civilian status. Take advantage of your most valuable resource -- time -- and prepare for the change. For those who remain, another change is on the horizon.

Doing more with less will be the staple. I first heard that overused statement in October 1986. I was working the 1550th Combat Crew Training Wing's dining out. The motto "Doing more with less" was a unanimous choice by the entire committee. It seems the motto stuck and here we are 20 years later still foot-stomping the old adage. The programmatic budget directive 720 is forcing each career field to analyze ways to do more with less to allow the Air Force to revitalize its weaponry for the out years. 

Most wing organizations were impacted by the cuts. The information manager, communications and personnel career fields were dramatically cut. Our civilian sector endured position losses. Overall, the wing lost 79 authorizations. 

How we collectively deal with the manning loss will define our wing's future. All personnel need to embrace this change and work to ensure our success. How do we do this "more with less" thing? 

Like a road map offering more than one route to the end destination, we too must realize there is more than one way to get an identification card, fix a computer problem or relocate to a new duty assignment. 

Step outside your comfort zone and realize the old way of conducting business won't work. For example, in the personnel community, the Air Force is forcing the customer to take control of common human resource transactions normally processed by the Military Personnel Flight. Each person must become familiar with the virtual Military Personnel Flight (vMPF) and the Air Force Contact Center (AFCC). The needs of the customer still need to be met. How we meet the need is changing. 

I bet each of us can reflect on a nightmare story contacting a bankcard company or help desk by phone. You patiently follow multiple prompts only to get a recording saying the office is closed. The AFCC and vMPF operate 24-7, offering quality personnel support to globally deployed personnel. This concept, in its infancy, is not perfect and is a learning process for the customer and the technician providing support. Changing the way business is conducted requires customers to use the phone, e-mail and the Internet. Don't be frightened or angry at the change. The concept is solid and as each day passes, it improves. 

Customers need to rewire their thinking process on service delivery and use the vMPF and AFCC to their advantage. The personnel community is not alone at fielding new service delivery concepts. Services, Communications, and Civil Engineer support capabilities must change as we continue to learn to do more with less. Finally, expeditionary deployment is the last "change" we all need to learn to swing with.

The Air Force is changing from blue to purple. The facts are clear. Sister services need our help, and the Air Force is delivering strong, viable solutions to our deployment mission. The days of deploying to established bases and air conditioning are the latest change facing our Airmen. 

Instead, wing personnel are deploying with the Army and facing harsh conditions once reserved for the ground pounders. The training required of our Airmen is also changing. Wing personnel are finding themselves at Army installations for three to four months prior to an Air Expeditionary Force rotation. Airmen are required to complete rigorous physical training. Most need two weapons qualifications. Carrying the weapon to the area of responsibility is required, not optional. Meals Ready to Eat are the norm and dining halls are a luxury. 

How do we deal with this change? The Air Force asks for each of us to dig deep again, this time in personal commitment to a solid fitness program, strong training ethic and of course, an open mind to doing things differently. 

Support career fields once destined to pound computer keys or push paper are now driving convoy duty in locations such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The Air Force cannot afford to revert to the "old days." Everyone must move forward and accept these new challenges. Seize opportunities while training at Fort Sill, Okla.; Camp Shelby, Miss.; or Fort Hood, Texas; to learn from your Army counterparts. They are skilled veterans at the ground war. The Air Force is no longer committed to just the space and air campaign but are now key elements for joint operations on the ground. Airmen need to swing with this pendulum change and learn from our "purple" force, understand and accept other services' points of view and train as a singular team. A willingness to change allows the pendulum to sway uninterrupted and in sync with today's "doing more with less."

In reflection, change is good for the body and mind. Change allows us to do more with less; however, it also allows the Air Force to think dimensionally to change our state of operations and current business rules. 

This uniform set of rules will continue to operate with fewer people and authorizations. Using state of the art technology such as the Internet and call centers will improve service delivery to Airmen stationed throughout the globe. Change is inevitable and must be embraced by all, from the lowest ranking Airman to our top general. Retired Senior Master Sgt. Duane Morris, a former Commandant of the Air Force Pararescue School, and my mentor during that long ago '86 dining out, probably never imagined the mileage the phrase "doing more with less" would get, but then again, the best ideas are always subject to change.