by Lt Gen Darren W. McDew
Commander, 18th Air Force
11/19/2013 - Winter 2013/2014 -- Those of us who have sworn to support and defend our Nation understand that someday we may be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice. We accept and understand that responsibility as an acknowledged risk in service to our country. However, that doesn't mean we are allowed to be careless with our lives or those of our fellow Airmen.
This year we've had a series of safety mishaps that have been related to lapses in focus, judgment, and discipline. Some of these mishaps have been fatal. I view this first and foremost as a leadership issue: it demonstrates a lack of focus on risk management, operations safety, training, and standards. We, as leaders, must adjust the focus.
It saddens me to lose any Airman--but especially when it is to a mishap that could have been avoided. We have the power to do better, but it requires a collective commitment to bring about real change. Until then, mishaps will continue with aircraft and equipment needlessly damaged and our fellow Airmen hurt or killed.
Many people will look for solutions by adding new processes, procedures, or instructions. However, the real solution is a time-tested remedy: leadership. If you have a problem with standards--apply more leadership. Have a problem with unit morale? Apply more leadership. Seeing a negative safety trend? Apply more leadership! Leadership is a medicine best applied liberally, regularly, and in person. Be bold in its application.
As leaders, we also understand that we will always face unexpected events, both natural and manmade, that drive a call from our Nation which can only be answered by Mobility Airmen. In responding to that call, we accept some inherent risk; we simply cannot be successful without doing so. In the mobility world, mission success often depends on a rapid response. But that doesn't mean we skip steps or ignore standards. Do the mission right!
We need you to take care of each other. We can't afford for you to become complacent or a statistic. When we lose focus we expose ourselves and our Wingmen to unnecessary risk. The solution to our challenges is simple: give our Air Force the strong leadership it needs. Help us strengthen our culture of excellence. You not only hold the keys but also carry the responsibility to build tomorrow's Air Force and posture it for success.
It is a heavy responsibility ... but it is one that your Wingmen, your leaders, and America is counting on you to exercise well. The implication to all of this is simple: our success depends on bold leaders who aren't afraid to take intelligent risks to make things better.
I'd ask you to consider how your ideas and innovations can positively impact our enterprise. Motivate others to find a better way to do business. I believe to my core that you are the most talented, knowledgeable, and operationally-ready Air Force we've had in our history. It's not the aircraft, money, or infrastructure that makes our Air Force strong--it's you!