Time is of the essence

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Aaron Wilt
  • 509th Civil Engineer Squadron commander
Do you have enough time in your day to complete your core duties and responsibilities?  Does your shop, flight or unit have enough personnel to accomplish your core mission requirements?  I suspect your answer is no and depending on your perspective, you probably have a myriad of reasons why that is the case.

I know that multiple personnel cuts, both military and civilian, over the last several years have significantly impacted my unit as well as most every other unit.  I have over 100 civilians in my squadron and they provide much needed expertise, continuity and training across thirteen Air Force Specialty Codes.  These significant cuts have reduced some skill sets to only one civilian position.  Sequestration and furlough impacts in 2013, followed by a shutdown in early 2014 further reduced available manpower capabilities across the wing, ultimately hurting a workforce we heavily rely on.  All of these reductions and lost time created more work for the military personnel continuing the mission.  This was especially evident with the additional taskers asking for the impact of sequestration and lost manpower.

Not only have we suffered these civilian reductions, we are now losing the last of the recent voluntary separations and retirements and involuntary retention and quality force review board personnel.  I expect most units are down in total personnel from this time last year, as my unit is down nearly 20 personnel from these programs.  Assuming some inbounds will help alleviate this overall impact, it will take time to stabilize personnel numbers in the wake of these force management reductions.

In addition, daily workload requirements have not reduced with the personnel cuts, and in most cases they have increased.  Therefore, fewer personnel doing the same work results in "doing more with less."  Ideally the expectation is that we would "do less with less" to adjust for lost manpower.  What I see happening is that we are continually asked to do more based on internal, external and functional demands on our time. 

Internal demands are those that we require and fill within our own organizations to accomplish our mission, whether that is for wing-wide support, training, additional duties, etc.  In the 509 CES I see these big rocks as the Emergency Management Support Team, snow and ice removal augmentees and grounds maintenance surge support.  Each of these requirements pull personnel from their primary AFSC but enable another AFSC to accomplish its mission. 

External demands are those that are driven by requirements in other organizations or programs that require support outside those organizations or that drive a manpower requirement for them to be effective.  Some of these are security forces augmentees, drug demand reduction, escort pool (CE requirement affecting other mission partners), honor guard, resiliency training assistants/master resiliency trainers, and sexual assault victim advocates.  I have nothing against these programs, but we can all agree that they require manpower support from our organizations.

Functional demands are those that come from or are driven by functional requirements or higher headquarters guidance such as the Bomber Strategic Aircraft Recovery Team (BSART), Incident Response Force/Response Task Force (IRF/RTF), deployment taskings and Developmental Special Duty (DSD) programs.  These are necessary requirements tied to contingency operations, incident response, and military training/education but they also add another layer of burden on our time and limited manpower.

In order to add some perspective on these manpower demands, I provide an example from the 509th Civil Engineer Squadron.  Due to mission constraints, I can't normally task my Fire and EOD personnel (71 military) for these additional requirements.  Out of the specific programs identified above, to include currently deployed personnel, the civil engineer burden is 184 of 201 available personnel.  This number is not all inclusive, does not account for nearly 20 fewer personnel than a year ago, increased 2015 deployment taskings or increasing annual training requirements (i.e. CBTs converting to face-to-face training).  Even though most are not full time demands, they begin to highlight the significant time burden placed on our Airmen outside their core AFSC.

I highlight these time demands as a leadership challenge for all Airmen.  In order to manage the chaos, we need to understand the competing demands, minimize them where we can, prioritize our resources and step out to accomplish the mission.  I challenge you to propose smart, common sense solutions to your leadership, even if those recommendations buck the status quo.  You may be surprised by their support.  A popular civil engineer mantra is "Can Do, Will Do", but the question "Should I Do?" is required in today's resource constrained environment.  Be cognizant of your resource constraints and look for more efficient ways to get the job done.  The 509th Civil Engineers will continue to "Carry the Load," unfortunately it is currently being done on the backs of fewer engineers.