Force Shaping and You

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- "...Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

On January 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy spoke those famous words in his inaugural speech as president, in times of racial tensions, feuds with other national superpowers and an unpopular war brewing in Southeast Asia.

At the time, the American people were struggling with the decisions of our government and had lost faith in many of our leaders. The president aimed to instill trust and confidence by telling the American people to take control of their lives and to make a difference, instead of sitting back while waiting for someone else to take action.

Today, close to 53 years later, we face a similar dilemma--that of trust and confidence--amongst our military ranks and the personnel cuts we face. The current force shaping initiatives have created turmoil for many military families and a struggle to believe in the decisions of the Department of Defense because they affect our lives...it's as close and personal as it gets.

As leaders, this is our time to instill trust and confidence in our system by properly communicating with our personnel on the subject of their tenure in service. At the unit level, key decision makers have a critical and extremely difficult task to recommend retention or separation. As members, you have some tough decisions to make while seeking the best course of action for you and your families.

Regardless of which side you fall into, the decision must be made in the best interest of the Air Force, based on each person's performance. Additionally, our people will have to be categorized, and it will be shocking for some members to finally hear they really do not measure up to their peers; something we have neglected to do with our performance reports.

Those hard conversations need to take place, because we must make these cuts in order to advance the capabilities of our service. This is non-negotiable, and we must be honest brokers in the process.
We have heard from both our Chief of Staff of the Air Force and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force that our service is transitioning into a performance-based force, and performance means doing, taking action and making reality out of ideas.

In order to retain the best, we must be honest with our people and do a performance-based rack and stack in accordance with our Personnel Services Delivery Memorandum guidance and policies.

As far as performance goes, if you have not reported for duty with your "A" game every time, chances are...you will be targeted. If you have the habit of doing the bare minimums in order to get by, chances are...you will be targeted. If you have not lived by our standards and have been comfortable on slacking and collecting pay, you will be targeted. If you are not doing everything the Air Force is asking of you--any time, any place--you will be targeted. Your actions, performance, and availability for any duty will decide your tenure in today's Air Force.

I have had multiple Airmen ask, "Chief, what gives me the best chance to stay in?"

My answer is simple: Perform to the BEST of your abilities, act decisively in the absence of orders and create solutions--not problems--for your assigned unit.

There are some good people that will be released from duty due to the numbers required to reach our desired force state. In this day, "good" may not be good enough, and if you are now deciding to play "catch-up" to be the best, it may be too late. But if your daily habit is to be at the top of your game, I say with confidence that you have very little to worry about.

Conversations regarding our professionalism and employment of our abilities are nothing new. In my tenure at the 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base, we have been in discussion for over a year on what "right" looks like, as I am sure previous leaders also discussed the topic. Each of us controls our performance, and the outcome will be a product of how much effort we put into it.

I now ask of you, "what can you do for our Air Force?" The future of our service deserves the best Airmen, our country depends on us when the chips fall with the expectation that we will serve honorably and selflessly; the true measure of a dedicated warrior. In closing, I ask each member to take control of your careers, do right by your family, and be a proud and honorable Airman.