Challenging the status quo

  • Published
  • By By Lt. Col. Lisa Moshier
  • 509th Mission Support Squadron commander
"This too shall pass," my mom would always say. The short quip has roots in biblical times, but she was not a religious woman. Mom's point was to seek shelter and let the storm pass - hunker down and persevere.

I heard her voice in my head the other day. Warning words in response to a professional storm of change and restructure.

Every functional community is touched by this storm of budget cuts and restructuring, and none more than personnel.

By Fiscal Year 2009, the 509th Mission Support Squadron will have reduced 63 percent from 2005 levels.

More than 1,500 Air Force personnel billets were stripped to fund new computer operations geared to reduce existing processes -
operations slow to materialize, forcing personnelists into the proverbial "do more with less." Not to mention the impact to our customers.

Hunker down, persevere, let the storm pass. Wait a minute. Is that really the answer? And as I recall, haven't we been here before? I'm sure I have that T-shirt somewhere.

I seem to remember a lot of change through the years - for maintainers, for one. Depot maintenance, two-tier, back shop, down shop - to an outsider it seemed more of a geography lesson.

Through all the changes, maintenance reshaped itself to be stronger and more responsive to changing weapon systems and funding reductions.

And what seasoned civil engineer doesn't remember pushing into then new territory of the "generalist" versus "specialist."

We in the military personnel flight, busy converting many civil engineer career field codes into one, marveled at the concept - was this new CE troop expected to be as multi-functional as his or her tool belt.

For those of us who watched that old hangar convert overnight into a world-class vice presidential stage Oct. 27, the answer is obvious.

No, sticking our heads in the sand for the sake of shelter and perseverance is not our style. Full engagement - dominating change - that's always been our way.

That's what dedicated, thinking people do. Especially those entrusted with a powerful mission under oath to protect our nation.

A few weeks ago, our crack personnel reliability program team out briefed the 509th Bomb Wing commander on the status of his PRP audit.

By this time, the PRP team had audited hundreds of personnel records and out briefed nearly all the Wing's certifying officials - enough to figure we heard it all.

One of the common discrepancies was a missed PRP code on TDY orders.

Why, he asked? What is the purpose? Of what indication is that of our ability to kick down doors and deliver the world's only strategic, long-range, low observable, nuclear and conventional payload anywhere, any time?

Oh no, had he just questioned PRP. I just knew the iron fist of the old, beloved Strategic Air Command was going to appear from parted clouds and strike us with that lightening bolt! Forget the "lightening within three" warning - we were toast.

But Brig. Gen. Greg Biscone was right. He was right to question the process. He was modeling for us what we all need to be doing - challenge.

Challenge the things that take up your time. Does it contribute to your mission? Can it be reduced if not eliminated?

We later learned that the PRP code on TDY orders alerts the TDY unit that any potentially disqualifying information must be forwarded to the host unit. In other words, what goes TDY, doesn't stay there - it comes home to your certifying official.

Consequently, the PRP team partnered with 509th Comptroller Squadron and added PRP to the Defense Travel System.

Not the perfect solution - I'd like to see that automatically populate the TDY orders, but it's a good first step.

Are you tired of doing more with less? Then challenge the process.

Of course, it doesn't end there. When you identify redundancy and waste, it is leadership's responsibility to back you up.

Responsible leadership will engage in change. Given our recent modeling example, I don't think that will be a problem at our wing.

In the end, we will ensure ours continues to be the most powerful air and space force in the world.

And, Mom, THAT won't pass.