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Making a better Air Force through change

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. James Dye
  • 90th Operations Group
I am a big fan of change. As a gearhead that loves hotrod cars, I hear people say, "They don't make cars like the use to," and I respond, "Thank goodness they don't." I remember when I was in high school, and before I could go out cruising on a Friday night, I would have to spend hours setting the points, gapping the plugs and adjusting the timing. Today, cars are much more reliable and don't require a tune-up before 100,000 miles, and you never hear of fan belts breaking like they did back in the day. Change has been a good thing when it comes to cars.

As I quickly approach the 30 year milestone in the Air Force, I have started thinking a lot about the changes I have seen during my career.

When I first came in, racial slurs were common in the workplace. Today, they are no longer used because leadership doesn't tolerate them, and we are a better Air Force for it.

As a young Airman, we used to have these 10-pound, glass ashtrays everywhere in the work place because smoking was allowed inside the buildings. Today, you are not allowed to smoke within 25 feet of the entrance of a building because leadership saw the health risk to Airmen, and we are a better Air Force because of it.

I remember in 1985, a technical sergeant was demoted to staff sergeant. after his third DUI, and that was the first time he received anything more than a LOR. Today, leadership takes quick and swift action against DUI's, and we are a better Air Force because of it.

We used to show up once a year to the base track, with our knee-high, striped tube socks, and run a mile and a half, resulting in most of us throwing up when we were done. Leadership knew the benefits of a fit Air Force, and today the gyms are full, and when the weather is nice, people run around the outdoor track, and we are a better Air Force for it.

In the beginning of my career, almost every locker had inappropriate centerfold pictures on the inside of the door, and sexual comments were laughed at and encouraged. Today, leadership has worked hard to rid the workplace of this type of material, and although we still have work to do, we are a better Air Force for it.

That brings me to my last years in the nuclear enterprise. There have been many difficult times over the last years that have been well-documented in the national media.

Leadership has listened and has already taken some historic steps toward fixing the issues and culture. It is clear to me the Force Improvement Program is the catalyst for the needed changes, and we will be a better nuclear enterprise and Air Force for it.

I have talked a lot about how leadership did all these changes, and many of you may think I am talking about people like the Secretary of the Air Force or general officers or even chiefs, but that isn't the case. For changes to be lasting, it takes leadership at all levels, from the slick-sleeve Airman Basic to the four-star general.

Leadership is best displayed when everyone buys into a change by embracing it as one team, and that is when lasting change occurs. It takes a senior airman to tell a peer that their comments are inappropriate or a 2nd Lieutenant to spend their lunch running with Airmen to help them pass their PT test. It takes a Staff Sergeant to talk to the Airmen in their office about their plans on their off time and to build the Airmen's trust to call if they find themselves in any situation and they need a ride or someone to talk to. That's true leadership.

As for the Nuclear Enterprise, we are about to get the FIP report that is packed full of new changes. This report will be worthless if the entire Air Force doesn't buy into it and take a leadership role in the implementation. Not everyone is going to like all the changes, but leaders look at what is best for the good of the whole, not the individual. Support the changes so we can become a better Air Force.

I am glad they don't make cars like they used to. I am glad our Air Force has changed. I am excited to watch leadership at all levels lead the Nuclear Enterprise through change. I know we will be better for it.