A new year requiring a new mindset

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Glen D. VanHerck
  • 509th Bomb Wing commander
Happy New Year Team Whiteman!

Welcome back and I hope you all had an enjoyable holiday season and have returned refreshed and ready to tackle the opportunities and challenges that we'll undoubtedly face in the upcoming year. I like to take a mental inventory early in the year, as I am sure many of you do, to reflect, to make some new resolutions and to set goals for the upcoming year.

Perhaps this year, we can share some common resolutions and synergize our efforts while we position ourselves for what will undoubtedly be more fiscal uncertainty in the future. Doing so will not only make us an even stronger team, but it will also maximize the assets we have available to us here and it will enable us to best utilize the funding we have. It is my goal to tackle these tough challenges and to turn them into opportunities that will have positive and beneficial results for Team Whiteman, our community partners, the Air Force and our Nation.
First, let me say congratulations on an outstanding 2014!

Team Whiteman accomplished so much due to your tremendous dedication, support and leadership! Best Bomb Wing in the USAF...Eubank Trophy for AFGSC services support...perfect execution of the flying hour program while setting a record for the most hours and sorties ever flown by the B-2 in a single month...highest mission capable rate in the history of the B-2 and the lowest average rate of Low Observable Maintenance hours ever! Well done and thank you for all the hard work that made those accomplishments become a reality!

Ten years ago our Air Force looked much different than it does today. The past decade has brought changes in posture, budget and personnel strength. In turn, these changes have impacted how we do business on a daily basis. These are changes that many of whom have been around the Air Force for a while, my family and myself included, are familiar with, and they are changes that we are going to face for the foreseeable future.

Over the past couple of years budget cuts forced many Air Force installations to make tough choices, shifting resources that support "like to do" and "ought to do" things in order to pay for the "must do" challenges. At Whiteman, we have been blessed to have a MAJCOM that has continued to fund many "like to do" and "nice to do" things, such as providing funding for lifeguards at the base pool and funding for the base library. As always, we need to maintain a combat-ready force, and as our budget continues to shrink, dollars that were once going to less mission-critical areas will be supporting that combat role. This challenge requires us to curb our frustrations and to refocus our energy on developing creative solutions. It requires us to further unite as teammates and to take care of each other every day. And it will require increased communication and support of our families in order for us to be successful.

Our uniformed and civilian Airmen must always remain focused on our primary mission--to provide Strategic Deterrence, Global Power and Combat Support to our great Nation! Accomplishing our mission requires leadership at every level.

Commanders, talk to your troops. Look them in the eye and give them honest feedback and just as important, listen and be open to new ways of doing business. For supervisors, I'm all about common sense. I certainly welcome your innovative ideas and if you see something that needs your dedicated leadership, take initiative and handle it at the lowest level. For all Airmen, if you see wasteful spending or misappropriated funds, you, and all government employees, have a responsibility to report it. We need you and each and every Airman to identify the waste and inefficiencies that you see. You are empowered to take ownership of these issues and I'm charging you to fix them wherever and whenever you find them. If you can't fix them at your level, then please identify these issues to your supervisor and/or commander, or me!

Ultimately, we have to change the way we do business and the way we think - it's going to take a culture change. It's up to all of us to find innovative ways to be effective and efficient while safely making our mission happen. The whole country needs to team up and solve this problem and recognize that our days of feeling entitled are over. But let me assure you that in the midst of this challenging new mindset, taking care of our Airmen and their families is still of the utmost importance to me. I promise to continue to balance this with ensuring that we are able to accomplish the mission at home and abroad, each and every day.

Finally, are you doing your part to support our Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs? When I joined the Air Force nearly 27 years ago, the club membership rate was near 100 percent for active duty and many retirees remained members of the club system.

Today our membership rate is approximately 10 percent and that is a significant loss in revenue. What many folks don't understand is that by being a club member you are supporting all MWR programs. The MWR fund supports the library, club system, child development center, bowling alley, golf course, auto hobby shop, outdoor recreation, archery range and many more programs we and our families use all the time! Let's stop thinking about the "club" being a building on base but rather let's think of all of us being part of a club of "members" that support and utilize MWR programs. These programs are fantastic benefits that we have become accustomed to and many folks view them as entitlements. They are not. With the fiscal realities and the change in culture of our force, these programs continue to be at risk and likely could be cut in coming years without a significant change in culture. We can greatly increase the funds available for these programs, which in turn will further increase the support to Team Whiteman, by increasing our club participation and membership rate.

Let's partner together to accomplish this goal. If there is a way I can maintain a service by finding a different and more innovative way of doing business, I want to do it to support our Air Force community. However, I cannot sacrifice mission capability to get there. So let's come together this year as an Air Force team and resolve to make the best of this challenge by maximizing our assets and by stepping up as responsible leaders in a fiscally-constrained environment. Thank you for your continued service and I look forward to a great new year.