“Just Do It”

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Kyle Clement
  • 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
Many discussions on leadership open with a famous quotation from some dead guy who was a military chieftain such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France; or Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke, chief of staff of the Prussian army.

I prefer referencing a present day hero to whom we all owe a great debt of gratitude -- Gen. (retired) Colin Powell. General Powell's leadership secrets can be summarized in his observation, "leadership is not rank, privilege, titles or money. It is responsibility."

Today's Air Force has changed much since I enlisted in 1989. Compared to years past, it is a smaller but highly educated force. We serve in a vibrant era, full of motivated men and women. And, like many of you, we have seen the ebbs and flows of the next best software to make our job easier. We have seen our service uniform morph as well as our utility uniform transform from olive green to today's Airman Battle Uniform.

Change and challenges have been a part of our service, from the Wight Brothers' Golden Age of Flight that bore Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, America's "Ace of Aces" of World War II when Gen. Henry Harley 'Hap' Arnold stated Airmen "cannot rely any longer on the old precepts of the past, but must instill in our leaders of tomorrow the importance of having flexible, imaginative minds. It will not be sufficient for officers to merely be leaders -- they must be thinking leaders, capable of adapting themselves to ever-changing and rapidly changing conditions," and further to Gen. Michael E. Ryan's reflections on core values. We cannot stop the change occurring inside our Air Force, as that is a natural attribute of our service. We must accept, however, and embrace the new responsibilities inherent in change. In today's Air Force, like the pioneers of yesteryear, we too must be held responsible for our personal choices, especially those made as a result of our new culture.

Since 2003, our Air Force has been increasingly promoting a culture of fitness. We abandoned a stationary bike test for a moderate, feel-good, non-punitive physical fitness assessment. However, the fitness craze did not take hold because the change was not meaningful. Therefore, this past July, the Air Force drastically altered our culture by adopting the current "Just Do It" fitness assessment. This change has been as impactful and meaningful as Gen. Merrill A. 'Tony' McPeak's creation of the objective wing structure. As with any change, there is turmoil. Nevertheless, we all must take responsibility for our personal fitness -- not just because Air Force Instruction 36-2905 says we will, but because it is the right thing to do.

When my Airmen fail their fitness assessments, I've asked them, "what happened?" Many Airmen assert various excuses - some humorous some not. Some who didn't exercise hoped a Red Bull power drink would get them through, and others did not take the test seriously and could not complete the run. The most disheartening rationale is when our Airmen find fault in every aspect of the test, from the conditions being too windy or too cold to their gear not fitting correctly. Once again change is upon us, and it has already forever altered our culture.

As warrior Airmen, we have to put the responsibility of change squarely on our shoulders--the only way to pass the fitness test is run, do push-ups, perform sit-ups and eat responsibly. As General Powell once said, "being responsible sometimes means pissing people off," and going where it's hard.

Today's fitness assessment is the real deal. We must stop finding faults in our fitness test and those administering the test and place the responsibility where it honestly lies. Year-round we must prepare for our fitness assessment and embrace the Air Force's new culture of leading and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In other words, we have to "Just do It" or be held accountable for our choices.