Commander stresses attention to detail, teamwork

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Robert Wheeler
  • 509th Bomb Wing commander
"It's only a detail."

"That's good enough for government work."

Nothing should strike fist-curling anger in every Air Force supervisor more than hearing comments like that from our subordinates. Those are the words that lead to failure and defeat. Those are NOT the words of professional warfighters in our Air Force.

We've all seen the results of such words even if we didn't realize it.

We've seen the mishap reports and learned of the details that were omitted because of someone being in a hurry. In a brief moment, someone did the unthinkable: he (or she) put self before service without even thinking about it. They took a shortcut for personal reasons and failed to keep "service before self."

Maybe the proper action would have meant another trip back to the tool crib for a torque wrench. Or maybe it would have meant waiting for a lock washer that was on back order before signing off a piece of equipment that was needed ASAP. Or maybe it was just quicker to do the task by memory instead of by the numbers. In all cases, the result is the same: failure. We are in a zero defect game.

When we have enough luck, the failure only means that an Airman has to be decertified and retrained. But when our luck bag is all empty, failure can mean the loss of human life, the loss of an airplane, or even loss of a mission. And with the B-2 bomber, loss of a mission can have worldwide strategic implications leading to the death of many people, so hoping for luck is a bad idea.

Making our luck is a better idea. That's why we have an Air Force culture that stresses the importance of teamwork. We double check each other's work. We ask tough questions, holding each other accountable. We even make sure our wingman has a safe way home. Whether we are out flying, prosecuting a target, fixing a test set, serving a meal, or driving someone home from the bar, we must never let our wingman down. The Air Force is a family, and family takes care of family.

As your commander, I often take on the role of being YOUR wingman too. And since wingmen always look out for each other, I really need your eyes and ears to make sure we're not taking those short cuts that let the team down.

And this is where I could use your help. Sometimes, you see something that needs improvement and don't know what to do about it. Too often, when that happens, we just shrug our shoulders or complain to our buddy, but that's not the right answer.

In most cases, the first step is reporting the problem to your supervisor, first shirt or commander, but don't settle for just a good start. This might mean you have to step outside of your comfort zone and work beyond you normal expertise to get something fixed.

In other cases, it might mean that you should fill out an IDEA form and get credit for the suggestion. Some Airmen who have done this have also gotten richly rewarded for their good ideas. So never forget this as an option.

For suggestions that don't fall into the normal chain of command, another option is to access the Installation Commander's Excellence Program found at You will get an answer, but we can't do anything about it if you don't take the first step.

Thank you and your family for your service to our nation.