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PCSing: A fresh start

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Cynthia Gunderson
  • 321st Missile Squadron commander
Have you ever thought about the positives and negatives of having a permanent change of station every two to four years? Every year about this time, as "PCS season" comes to a close, I am reminded of one huge advantage of PCSing: every time we move, we are afforded the opportunity to make a fresh start.

Whether or not each member takes the time or makes the effort to capitalize on this perk, this opportunity is in the hands of each individual. Your slate is not completely erased, but you at least have the chance to either change course or continue to prove you are as good as your record shows.

When I think about what it takes to make a fresh start, three things come to mind: goals, involvement and people.

Each time I PCS I intentionally set time aside to re-evaluate my goals and modify them based on my previous experiences and my upcoming assignment. To me, goals are the first step towards success and they provide a map to chart a course to meet my ultimate vision. Short-term, mid-term and long-term goals help keep me focused on the future, not only at work but in my home life as well.

After I have re-evaluated my goals, I look toward being involved in my new environment. With every new squadron and city comes a different "adventure" that will undoubtedly provide new perspective and opportunity to grow as an individual, a teammate and an Airman.

As you get more involved, you will inevitably have the opportunity to meet new people and grow your Air Force family. Each person I get to know because of a PCS provides me with the opportunity to learn something new about the mission, the Air Force and life.

At this point, you are probably thinking that I must look at the world through rose colored glasses and that I must not realize that PCSing or making a fresh start can be difficult. Moving and job changes are highlighted in several studies as life events that cause a significant amount of stress for all individuals involved. I don't discount these studies, but I believe there are steps each of us can take by using the three ideas above in order to ensure "PCS season" and "fresh starts" are incredibly positive and impactful experiences.

The following tips can be helpful during the PCS season.

Tips for the home team
· Make introductions and really make an effort to get to know the new member.
· Ensure the new member knows how to get in touch with someone should they need help - day or night.
· Show the new member "the ropes." This should include everything from daily operations and local procedures to where folks hang out or making the simple gesture to include them in an office lunch.
· Allow new members the opportunity to make a fresh start if they are recovering from a mistake or allow them to prove again that they are as good as their record says they are.

Tips for the new guy
· Watch, listen and learn. Figure out the processes of your new unit and see how they work. The processes or feel in the unit may be different than you have experienced in the past or may not be a traditional way of doing things, but give them a chance; there is probably a reason things are the way they are.
· Involve yourself in unit activities (squadron picnics, sports teams, Cheyenne Frontier Days, Frontiercade, etc). This will help you get to know those you are going to work closely with in an informal environment when everyone's true colors shine through.
· Come in on day one with a subtle confidence and expect to have to earn "street credibility" from your new teammates. Right or wrong, you will have to prove yourself after each PCS rather than expecting your past experiences to stand alone (nobody likes to hear how you have done it all).
· Provide feedback after seeing how existing processes work for a few months (immediately if there is something illegal or immoral going on). You will have "fresh eyes" when coming into a new unit and past experiences can help grow your new teammates and the unit.

PCSing or making a fresh start can be relatively complex and stressful, but it provides an environment for change. In fact, change is inevitable as old members leave and new members join the team. This is something we all need to be aware of and embrace rather than try and steer clear of.

This change driven by new goals, perspectives and relationships can provide the opportunity for individual, team and mission area growth. Growth that we need in order continue to dominate as an Air Force Family and as the best Air Force in the world.