"Don't Settle"

  • Published
  • By Maj. Brian Leo
  • 36th Maintenance Squadron
Twenty Seven. A non-descript number, a multiple of 3 and 9, somebody's jersey number, maybe your age; or for me, the number of years I've been in this incredible Air Force. I say that I've been in for 27 years to let you know my experience to the great changes we've undergone as we continue to represent our Nation to the world. As Bob Dylan said, "times, they are a-changin'."

We're now told there's a budget crunch. We're told that personnel cuts are looming; with reduction in force and date of separation rollback boards again chopping into our ranks. We face an ever-changing and more complex mission set. In the last 25 years, borders and alliances around the world have changed and now countries jockey for position to stand up to the US. It's imperative that we look to find the true value in each piece of what we do and cut out those things that bring no value to our operations. Finding and identifying the difference between our wants and our needs is increasingly important. As well, understanding your position in the Air Force becomes much more than just your job, be it turning a wrench or setting up a network, every piece of what you do should have an impact on the overall mission, and not be just the daily tasks you perform. It's up to those in uniform to uphold standards and to trim no-value-added processes before it's done for us.

To ensure that what we do is always done in the most efficient way possible, takes a meticulous knowledge of what's required. This includes everything about doing your job, and everything about being an Airman. Settling for mediocrity in either can be disastrous. If you only half-do your job, or don't put forth the effort for 100% compliance, then you could be the weak link that prevents your unit from accomplishing its mission, or accomplishing it at great cost. If you're not promoting the AF values in your behaviors, by following AF standards correctly and enforcing them, then you're letting past Airmen, your peers and the rest of the team down. In today's age it's the weak link that jeopardizes the mission...is that you?

Your knowledge of standards as an Airman is critical to upholding those standards required to perpetuate discipline...the discipline to seek out efficiencies and break the status quo mold. Many things may seem insignificant, but in fact they can have a big impact over time if not enforced. Non-enforcement creates an erosion of values, which then imparts a lackadaisical or apathetic attitude at every level. Once that attitude crosses over to your job it creates safety issues and impacts the mission. I won't address your specific job knowledge here, but on that note, if you don't seek out job knowledge when you're asked a question you should know the answer to; then you're missing an opportunity to learn. Too often, not enough time is spent either training individually or under direction from your supervisors. This can lead to erroneous information or answers being passed around that can affect negatively careers and operations.

In the Aircraft and Munitions Maintenance career field, the Technical Order is King. If you're doing anything, you must have the technical data out and actively use it to perform whatever task you're doing. That means following the book, step by step, without exception. The fact that it's mandatory makes it easier to accept that while it can be a pain to follow sometimes, it's the best way to gain true experience of the technical requirements for the task. In other career fields it's strictly following the AFIs, or other guidance, but the notion is the same across the AF. What better way to perform with efficiency than to always follow written guidance that's put there because of someone else's 'learning experience?' Also, while you're following written guidance closely, it's easier to root out the processes that are antiquated and require change.

There's a personal theme that helps me hold myself and others accountable and that, I hope, rubs off on those around me. That theme is 'Don't Settle.' Don't settle for less than the best effort, don't settle for mediocrity, don't settle for not knowing (or someone else not knowing, if they should), don't settle for bad customer service, don't settle for someone shirking standards, don't settle for unhappiness, don't settle for 'Can't.' 'Don't Settle' can be used just about anywhere in our lives.

If we hold ourselves and others accountable to written guidance, rather than ignoring it or leaving inefficiencies as they are, we can keep the basics close at heart and increase the value of what we do. This is essential as we operate during a time of budget and personnel cuts. Keep the axe sharp and 'Don't settle.'