My Perspective: Losing is not an option

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

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

If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to read my first two commentaries on the Action Orders laid out by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown Jr. In those, I discussed the importance of taking care of our Airmen and getting rid of the bureaucracy that’s holding us down.

This month, we will discuss Action Order C: Competition.

Getting after Action Order C the right way means we’ve got to take care of Action Orders A and B first. If we take care of our Airmen and cut out unnecessary bureaucracy, we will have more time to focus on competition.

General Brown’s strategic approach calls for us to Accelerate Change or Lose.

I love competition. Any time, any place. I will accept a challenge on a wrestling mat, the pickle ball court, or in a debate about the best fighter jet (F-16, no question). But, as much as I love competition, I hate to lose even more.

Imagine what would happen if the Florida Gators met Alabama on the football field, but never practiced or ran through plays beforehand. It’s difficult enough to beat a team like Alabama with practice (we Gator fans know, sadly), but it would be next to impossible to win without any preparation. That same concept is true for the Air Force. We will not be able to defeat our adversaries without proper preparation. That’s why we’re changing our mindset and getting prepped for a game day we hope won’t happen, but if it does, we’ll be ready.

As Airmen (Officer, Enlisted and Civilian), it is vitally important for each of us to understand not only our unit’s playbook, but also how we fit into the larger Air Force game plan.

We have teammates across the installation who rely on us to get them out the door effectively and efficiently when they are tasked with deployments. As an example, if we fail to get the 552nd Air Control Wing or the 72nd Security Forces Squadron out the door, we let the entire Air Force team down. What we do is so important it literally is the difference between winning or losing against a peer competitor. That is not an exaggeration, it is truth. We cannot and will not let that happen.

As individuals, it’s up to each and every one of us to ensure we’re in game shape and conditioned for the fight. What does that mean? It means you’re physically ready, you’re mentally ready, and you’re ready to execute your wartime skill. We have to work all those angles, all the time. Your leadership team will help your prepare in those three areas but the bottom line….it’s up to you. You own the mission; you own your mindset. What are you doing every day to prepare yourself to dominate our adversaries?

For your fitness, do you only train inside with the air conditioning on?  Or do you get outside when it’s either hot or cold, rain or shine?  You must be ready to fight, and win, in all weather and at all times of the day.  The same holds true for your mental fitness.  Are you taking time to think through how you might react to certain situations?  Being away from home, isolated for a long time, witnessing the loss of a teammate?  Have you developed a network of friends and teammates who can support you through that time and keep you in fighting condition or will you have to take a knee and remove yourself from the fight at the first sign of adversity?

How do I do it?  I have teammates to help me. Col. Keven ‘Hitch’ Coyle helps ensure our physical fitness is as good as we old guys can make it. We’re working out at 0500 most days, but somedays we look for the hottest part of the day to workout. That way we know how the heat affects our ability to perform. With regard to mental health, I’ve got a great team in the front office helping me in that regard. Our wing chaplains and our mental health professionals help too. Yup, I have appointments with mental health professionals.  They are awesome! Finally, wartime skill, I’ve been working on that for 26 years. The Airmen of the 72 ABW help me with that as I get out and about with them.  My fellow wing commanders and I talk about how to best execute our missions by working through different scenarios all the time.

How can you get your mind into the competition framework?  Compete.  Compete in everything.  Compete with your fellow Airmen during a physical fitness test.  Compete during intramurals (which we’re bringing back), compete in your day-to-day activities.  Learn what it means to win and lose.  Learn how to win gracefully and how to lose but still learn and grow without becoming bitter.  Some of the best lessons I learned over the years came when I failed to win. In fact, there is an old quote from General MacArthur; “On the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days and other fields will bear the fruits of victory.”

In this new era of great power competition, I need you to make that mental switch to thinking like a warrior. You don’t have to pull a trigger or push pickle button to have this mindset.  Our Air Force is designed to be the ultimate deterrent; however, should that fail, our job is to close with and destroy the enemy, their people and their things until they decide the fight is over.  They will be trying to do the same to us.  So, when it’s game time, we have no choice but to be ready.

Winning in war is ugly enough, losing in war is so horrible it’s almost unimaginable. We need to prepare to win. We can’t afford to lose. Did I mention I hate to lose? To anyone. Ever. Fight’s on.