My Perspective: Readiness, training and taking care of each other for positive change

  • Published
  • By Col. Hall Sebren
  • 72nd Air Base Wing

(Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of commentaries laying out the priorities of the Tinker installation commander.)

The way our country fights its wars has evolved and our training mindset must follow.

First and foremost, the Air Force is designed to deter conflict as part of the Military portion of what is called the DIME, our instruments of national power: Diplomatic, Information, Military and Economic. When we fail to deter conflict through all four pieces of the DIME, our Air Force (and our sister services) is called upon to impose our national will and achieve victory.  We are currently seeing some of our instruments of national power at work as the conflict between Russia and Ukraine unfolds.

To deter conflict, we must pose a credible force. We do this in a number of ways from working with partner nations in large joint and combined exercises and we train at our home stations. Our training mindset has changed in the last six months and you may already being seeing this across the installation and in the coming months you will see more changes taking place. My hope is you will see the positives as we embark on this new journey.

Our Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. CQ Brown Jr.’s strategic approach is ‘Accelerate Change or Lose.’ Included are Action Orders to help focus the efforts to make the needed changes:

Action Order A:  Airmen

Action Order B:  Bureaucracy

Action Order C:  Competition

Action Order D:  Design Implementation

We are going to move out across all those Action Orders, starting with Airmen.

There are a number of ways to take care of Airmen. When I talk about Airmen, I always include DAF Civilians, Active, Guard and Reserve members of any grade or rank.

For me, taking care starts with ensuring an Airman is fully trained to do her job. That encompasses their tasks to perform the day-to-day mission as well as their ability to survive and operate in an active combat zone. It also means -- for those who do not deploy -- how to complete the home station mission when base systems such as power, water or networks are not functioning or are functioning poorly. To get there, we must practice protecting the base through various methods. In this regard, you might come to an office and be helped by someone who is “kitted up” in chemical gear. You might see (or better said, hear) Airmen controlling aircraft while in a gas mask. You might experience a short delay in service as we simulate in real time how we would walk through a situation if the normal system stopped working or becomes compromised.  You may be inconvenienced with a no-notice office closure.  While we will work to minimize those impacts to our retire and dependent population, I ask your patience as we hone our wartime skills.

I believe our nation’s next conflict will not be fought like our last one. Things will happen much more quickly and there will not be months to train and prepare. So we must learn how to be more ready as a steady state. Thus training and smaller unit-level exercises will be more frequent. Many times you may not even know training is happening but in those instances where you see something different than normal I wanted to give you a craniums up. We won’t get the training 100% correct the first time. We will need to adapt and change as we learn. And, we will adapt and learn. As we become more ready and more resilient our deterrent value goes up and risk of conflict goes down.

In addition to properly training our Airmen, we can also take care of them by doing some small things to let them know we’re asking a lot and we appreciate their efforts. As an example, late last year I made the decision to make a few changes with parking at the base Commissary and Exchange. I know parking isn’t typically that big of a deal but it was small visual way I could let our youngest, most vulnerable teammates know that while we are going to work hard we also care for them. For those in the rank of E-5 or higher it is our responsibility to take care of our Airmen (and our sister service counterparts) on- and off-duty. I am a big fan of the concept of “leaders eat last” and that weighed heavily in this decision. Thus the spaces closest to the food court and the commissary go to the youngest, those who work the mission every day and who have the least control of their schedule. Now, we also need to have a little fun. There were a few spaces not accounted for, so one of our civilian Airmen came up with a great idea to add some fun signs that would hopefully make someone’s day a little brighter. I hope they do bring a smile to your face when you use them. 

Another way to impact Airmen is to spend time with them. I encourage leaders to make time to get out of the office and spend a little time mentoring or just listening to what your Airmen have to say. Some of my favorite times as a commander is when I’m out and about learning about the men and women who make up Team Tinker. Trust me, it’s worth the effort!

I will wrap up by reiterating, we are going to train in smaller exercises but increase unit-level training so those commanders and those first line supervisors have control over the readiness of their forces. This doesn’t mean more time at work but it does mean using the time at work more wisely. We must be ready. And we will also look for ways to make off-duty or break times a little more enjoyable.

Next up I’ll fill you in on ways we’re getting after Action Order B: Bureaucracy. What we are doing to decrease your wait times, speed up the time it takes to get your issues resolved and also touch on some things we will not be doing anymore. 

Airmen, retired Airmen, and those who support Airmen, our ears are wide open for ideas on how we can more effective and more efficient in supporting you and your mission. I look forward to hearing from you.