Read any good books lately?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David Miller
  • 52nd Munitions Maintenance Group Deputy Commander
As a young lieutenant, I grew up in Strategic Air Command where a high value was placed on "knowing what the book says."

This was an important starting point when confronted with a problem. It was a pre-requisite to finding an answer within your local chain of command before sending a message off the base to headquarters asking how to do something. We've lost that thought process across the Air Force.

Too often we rely on word of mouth or what our technical school instructor or what our supervisor taught us on how to do our job instead of reading and knowing "what the book says." Checklists and training plans are no substitute for reading the actual book.

As some people may have learned during phase one of the unit compliance inspection, we should have been reading the basic directives that apply to our daily work environment, since that is what the inspectors used to evaluate to our work area.

It's important to remember that our guidance doesn't just come from Air Force Instructions, but also can be found in public law, Department of Defense guidance, European Command and U.S. Air Forces in Europe Instructions and NATO Standardization Agreements.

You may say that you don't have time to read the basic directives. Well if you don't have time to correct an error you made because you didn't read the basic directives, then you don't have time not to get into the books. If your work impacts others, there's a greater imperative to know what the book says so those people don't have to spend additional time and effort helping you resolve problems because you didn't read the book.

It doesn't stop with reading the book, but extends to complying with the "spirit and intent" as stated in the book. Spirit and intent means just because the book says to check and ensure something is done on a specific schedule, that you ignore an improperly functioning system in between those times. This also means that since instructions are not all encompassing you cannot assume an action is permitted simply because you could infer a paragraph applies to a specific situation.

If you still have lingering questions after finding out what the book says, you can then use your chain of command to elevate questions up to headquarters. If we want to truly get back to basics in our Air Force, then we have to get back to "what the book says."