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The importance of understanding

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Daniel Arvin
  • 90th Security Forces Group chief enlisted manager
Several weeks ago, I was in a meeting in which a change of procedures affecting Air Force members was briefed. As I listened, I did not hear a clear explanation given for the change.

One attendee asked the briefer what the purpose of the change was. The briefer answered, "because it is in the Air Force Instruction and must be followed." I don't believe the attendee questioned a need for the written guidance, but was looking for background information to understand the change.

As members of our profession, we should understand why something is required and have the ability to explain the purpose.

The word understanding may have multiple meanings for various people. It can be associated with other words such as wisdom, insight and perspective, to name a few. Do we truly understand what we always see or hear? Do others truly understand what we say? How do we know such understanding occurs? Here is my understanding of understanding: We generally accept that having knowledge is an important first step, but what good is knowledge if we cannot form a solid conclusion?

First, we must be capable of explaining our knowledge. This is more than simply reciting facts. Explaining is being able to draw upon the big ideas, theories and judgments based upon this knowledge. Next, what good is an explanation if we can't interpret the meaning? What does it really mean and what is the effect? We must look at the knowledge, explanation and interpretation to determine the relationship and assign meaning. Finally, we look at validating what we know and being able to apply it through demonstration and performance.

We perform extremely well in the Mighty Ninety, Air Force Global Strike Command's premier ICBM wing, and we have proven this time and again. I believe we recently demonstrated all these characteristics during our Nuclear Surety Inspection. We wowed the inspectors, demonstrated our knowledge, performed above expectations, effectively described our mission, and expertly explained why we do our mission.

More importantly, I see these characteristics demonstrated daily throughout our wing as our many great Airmen and civilian employees perform our mission protecting our nation.

So, the next time someone is seeking understanding, reflect back on what understanding entails. The answer, "it is directed," does not provide the background to understanding changes. Understanding is having the knowledge, ability to explain, interpret, demonstrate, perform, and validate. Members of the Mighty Ninety validate understanding daily through the performance of excellence.