The Air Force's most valuable resource

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Transformation. Modernization. Force shaping. Lean reengineering. Recapitalizing the force. If you're an active duty member in today's Air Force, chances are you've heard one of these buzzwords that all allude to the myriad of changes taking place across our service. Multiple, radical changes are nothing new to the military ... as a matter of fact, changes have been taking place since the Air Force was born in 1947.

Perhaps you've heard some form of the old adage, "If you don't like today's changes, just stick around long enough and we'll come full circle." Fortunately, there is one thing that has remained constant: People are the Air Force's most valuable resource. You are the Air Force's most valuable resource.

Sure, there are days when we don't feel that way. Force shaping and reduction in force boards don't exactly make us feel invaluable. But the fact of the matter is, without you, the mission would never get accomplished.

True enough, technology has enabled us to perform a number of tasks with far fewer people than we did in the past. It wasn't long ago that leave forms were filled out manually and every squadron had a leave monitor for tracking purposes. Today, LeaveWeb enables us to accomplish everything on line, individually. Gone are the days when the squadron secretary typed up your TDY orders and you had to bug your resource advisor for a fund cite ... now it's all done electronically, through the Defense Travel System. And 10 years ago, who among us envisioned a "virtual" military personnel flight?

Although we've been able to streamline many of our processes, it is still people who perform the mission. Today's Airmen are the brightest, most talented to ever enter the military. No modernized piece of equipment can provide the ingenuity, innovativeness and flexibility of the human mind. Today, we have "Unmanned" Aerial Vehicles, but without the human controlling that aircraft, it would wander aimlessly and fail to achieve its desired objective. Yes, we have information systems that can provide us with unimaginable quantities of data, but without a person analyzing these products, they would never become coherent, actionable information.

It is critical that military leaders maximize their Airmen's potential by fostering an environment of respect and trust. Part of this is ensuring our folks have the training and education necessary to perform their duties. A piece of equipment may be able to flawlessly perform the same function over and over again, but only a person has the ability to adapt and overcome ever-changing conditions on the battlefield. Never have these attributes been more important than in the continuing Global War on Terror.

Machines and equipment are merely means to accomplish the mission, and it is leadership's responsibility to ensure our Airmen have the necessary resources to succeed. Force recapitalization is helping to provide our Airmen with the best, most modern equipment available. But you are more than a means to an end--you make mission accomplishment possible. You are undoubtedly the Air Force's most valuable resource.