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Air Force building its championship team

  • Published
  • By Col. Mark Weber
  • 60th Maintenance Group
"Brains without competitive hearts are rudderless."
- Vince Lombardi

It is time to reload and rebuild. It's time for each squadron, group and wing to refocus on what it needs to do to stay on top.

The list of awards from 2012 and 2013 is long and distinguished and 2014 is looking to yield another banner-hanging year as well. To use a football analogy, summer is ending, school for the kids is starting and all of us as a Travis team have to consider this our training camp for both the 2014 home stretch and the "championship run" for 2015. Can you say first ever Unit Effectiveness Inspection?

Like the National Football League, it's hard for any unit to repeat as champions, let alone strive for a three-peat as the best in Air Mobility Command. The Maintenance Group is working hard to do this as you read.

My NFL team is in Seattle. The Seahawks look primed for another championship run. They face a daunting challenge in trying to become the first repeat champion in a decade and, just like our own Air Force, those challenges come down to people. Seattle lost five starters during the offseason, but the core remains mainly intact while others will now have to step up to continue what is now "expected excellence" in all they do.

Losing key players happens at all levels and in all organizations. Force shaping is a significant concern for everyone and I have faith in our Air Force leadership to work for our Airmen and for the future of our Air Force organization much like general managers must face the challenges of maintaining a championship roster under a salary cap. Given a choice, we would like to keep everyone who contributes to the success of our mission, but someday soon, if we stay on the current path, retirement costs will exceed active personnel costs and eventually any other category of cost in our nation's defense budget.

That is unsustainable. We are forced to let some good contributors go and "release" some of our teammates, just like the Seahawks must let good people who they still need and want depart the team.

Members of a championship football team can be compared to Airmen in our ranks today as we organize, train and work toward a common goal. New Seahawks, free agents and draftees, and those remaining from recent cuts, force shaping, are competing to start focusing on fitness which will provide them the stamina to prove themselves as suitable replacements.

Veterans and leaders, supervisors, will set the example by studying the playbook and film for hours, judiciously, within the rules, standards, technical orders, etc., without breaching command and control, all to prepare them to reach the next level intellectually, which could mean the difference when the most important game of the season is on the line.

A team like the Seahawks, or Travis, will not see another championship unless everyone continues to realize that they must always first do what they have been trained and asked to do -- their specific job.

Everyone has a job to do that equates to the success of the whole team. All-pro cornerback Richard Sherman must cover his wide receiver; someone else won't do that for him. Running back Marshawn Lynch must pound the rock over and over again to wear down the opponent. The inside linebacker must not get sucked into an area outside his responsibility because he doesn't trust his teammate's ability or it will be his own area that is exploited. Quarterback Russell Wilson must continue to make good decisions and play consistently for the train to keep on rolling.

The question we need to ask ourselves is something Wilson asked his team each and every day last year: Why not us? Why can't we compete, yet again, for the Air Force Daedalian Award, best maintenance group, the Air Force Installation Excellence Award, the Air Force Airfield Complex of the Year and the Air Force Surgeon General's Best Hospital?

If we make our focus about how each Airman, flight, unit or group supports the overall mission, the team and what it takes to fly, fight, and win, then success is inevitable. With all the current force shaping and budget challenges, this team is experiencing sometimes necessary and sometimes difficult-to-comprehend changes, but we still have the core of our team intact.

We have thousands of Airmen who are terrific professionals in their field because they study and train. Thousands of Airmen are role models in and out of uniform because they are smart, disciplined, compassionate and, fundamentally, the definition of a comprehensive Airman. Adversity in the form of force shaping, deployments, mission surges and budget cuts all creates opportunities to become better, more efficient and stronger as leaders and professionals.

Nothing is more important than surrounding ourselves with the right people. We do this by becoming the best supervisors, peers, friends and followers in a time where focus and passion are needed most. We strive to help Airmen become the most physically fit with courses offered at the Health and Wellness Center not available in most fortune 500 corporations. We strive to be mentally fit with Professional Military Education, Community College of the Air Force and many educational opportunities that help Airmen grow stronger and more resilient. Combine formal education with Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century and we, as a team, are empowering Airmen with programs that develop minds and unleash creativity, problem solving, and the greatness of Airmen so they can help solve the complex issues we face today.

General Mark W. Welsh captured this idea by saying that, "We must pursue a strategically agile force to unlock the innovative potential resident in our Airmen and turn a possible vulnerability into an enduring advantage."

Why not us? We are proven champions, yet a championship is not an end. It is merely a benchmark. We have been nothing less for many years running. The bar was set high by our own excellence and we need to continue to nudge that bar even higher.

Get fired up to deliver what this Nation asks of us. Desire to constantly progress as a professional of arms. Strive to improve yourself and your team until you have total command of your assigned skill set. We need to strive to be clutch, to be dominant, when we need to be and when we are called to be. That is our measure of success.

"What we do on some great occasion will probably depend on what we are; and that will depend on previous years of self-discipline."
- Vince Lombardi