Where do you fit in the "Mission Puzzle"?

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- At one time or another, we have all put together a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece a different shape and series of colors or parts of a picture. Our mission here at Whiteman is similar to a puzzle, only it's a lot more complex. Alone, each piece is simple and unique, having its own specific place within the bigger picture. 

Just like each small piece, Whiteman Airmen, civilians and contractors, Active Duty, Guard and Reserve each have their own specific purpose, form and function that contribute to the overall mission. We can't finish the job unless we know where each piece fits. Similarly, every one of us must take the time to understand where we fit in that big picture of the Whiteman mission. 

The better we understand where we fit, the better we can complete our mission as a collective whole. For example, the civil engineer squadron is very diverse unit. We provide emergency services such as Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Fire Protection, and Readiness and Emergency Management. We also plan, program and executive a wide variety of construction projects, manage natural and built assets. And that means we maintain and repair every square foot of where Airmen and civilians work, live, play and pray while at Whiteman. 

The 509th Civil Engineer Squadron can't operate at its full potential unless every individual knows where they fit and knows how their job impacts the rest of the organization. Considering that when we conduct annual maintenance on the docks, several shops must interact, coordinate and support each other to get the job done. CASS, liquid fuels, structures, electrical and plumbing shops coordinating and synchronizing to perform inspections, function checks, and make repairs in a specific sequence to ensure the facility will do the job when its hooked up to the airframe. 

Another great example was recently highlighted during the last major accident response exercise. Initial responders from the Fire Department, EOD, and Readiness and Emergency Management rapidly and efficiently suppressed a fire, provided emergency medical care, rendered a munition safe, provided expert radiological analysis, and efficiently decontaminated personnel. In this case, we had three extremely different functions moving in concert because each individual knew where they fit during the exercise scenario. Sure, they can all execute their specific functions individually because they are highly trained and motivated, but CE does it effectively and efficiently...they know where they fit in the CE mission. 

Knowing where each of us fits in our respective units is the easy part. But we need to take the next step and learn where we fit in the overall mission puzzle. Understanding this begins with learning about other organizations. How are they structured? What is their primary function? What are their capabilities and limitations? Personally, I need to know how Civil Engineering fits in with all the other organizations on base while taking into account my squadron's capabilities and limiting factors. 

When I took command in July, I had a basic understanding of the B-2 mission, but didn't fully comprehend the complexities of maintaining and operating this advanced weapon system. I didn't understand how MXS, AMXS, and MOS fit together and how each supports the mission. After meeting with their squadron commanders, touring their facilities, and meeting the airmen, civilians and contractors who work for them, I began to understand where my squadron fits in the big puzzle. I am now capable of making more informed decisions in order to optimize the resources of my squadron to provide the best possible mission support. 

I realize it's easy to ignore with the NOREs, MAREs, NORI, and the day-to-day work that we all do to keep moving forward, but it's a challenge we all face in different ways. In today's stressed environment, it's easy to focus on the hot issues at hand and we tend to think, "I don't have time to step back and look outside of my own small piece of the puzzle." But if we each take a little time, the pieces will start looking familiar, fitting together easier, and the big picture will emerge.