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FIP: Own It

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- It has been about a year now since the Force Improvement Program became a part of our everyday lexicon in the ICBM community. In that relatively short period of time we have already seen numerous material improvements directly attributable to that program: OCP uniforms for our defenders, new crew vehicles and increased funding for weapon system sustainment and the associated support equipment, to name just a few.

All of these improvements should be celebrated. They not only increase our quality of life, but better equip our Airmen to execute the mission they perform so brilliantly every day.

To focus solely on these acquisitions, however, misses what I find to be the most exciting and most important change brought about by FIP and associated initiatives: pushing responsibility to the lowest level.

Airman at all levels are now empowered, trusted and expected to perform the duties for which they are assigned, free from overbearing management practices. This is the one initiative that cannot fail in our quest to change the culture of the ICBM community.

Given the importance of this change, we should all be asking ourselves what we can do to make it succeed. My answer to that question is simple: we need to own it.

It is one thing to think, "Let me do my job." It is something different to fully understand and embrace what that means. Tactical expertise is the start, but we also need to understand the decisions that are expected of us at our level, and how to make those decisions in an informed, logical manner.

We need to constantly look for ways to make ourselves and our teammates more effective in performing our mission. When we find deficiencies in our procedures or equipment, we need to fix those problems rather than accept them. If the solution is beyond our purview to fix, we need to raise the issue up the chain of command, understanding that our leaders do not know what they do not know.

Leaders have a significant responsibility in making this change succeed. That responsibility starts with us letting go. Organize, train and equip our Airmen to succeed, and they will do amazing things. We have a responsibility to coach and mentor our subordinates how to make sound, risk-informed decisions.

As those of us who grew up with ICBMs in our veins can attest, our community has not always done well at developing such decision making skills in our young Airmen. We need to understand that mistakes will happen and it is part of everyone's learning and growing experience. As long as willful neglect is not at play, mistakes should be treated as a learning experience--a chance to make the individual and the organization better.

As leaders, we need to listen to our Airmen. We need to remember that no one has a monopoly on good ideas, and that more often than not the best ideas come from the newest and freshest voices.

Without a doubt we have seen significant improvements to our culture over the past year. I have noticed an increased confidence and "pep" in the steps of Airmen that has not always existed. We have proven that culture change is not only possible, but that it enables us to better perform our mission.

Let's keep the momentum going forward in developing the culture we all want and deserve. The best way for us to make this happen is for each of us to own it.