Flexibility, resiliency the keys to airpower

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. James Fink
  • 336th Training Support Squadron First Sergeant
Prior to a deployment in support of Operation Desert Shield, a Marine First Sergeant with the 3rd Tank Battalion, 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade said, "Marines, my platoon commander in 'Nam' used to tell us 'Semper Gumby, Always Flexible'."
    What the Marine First Sergeant said is similar to the Air Force adage, "Flexibility is the key to airpower" - a famous quote by Italian airpower theorist Gen. Giulio Douhet. To me, flexibility is vital for us to overcome our daily challenges so we can complete the mission. As Airmen, we pride ourselves on being flexible, adapting to changes in the situation, and making do with what we have to get the mission done. Ultimately the mission has to come first. However, without flexibility, we typically break instead of bend when faced with the pressures of an ever changing force. If we break, we simply cannot complete the mission.
     Have you ever made plans for a 3-day weekend and at the last minute your supervisor approached you and said, "I hate to do this but, I need you to work on Saturday"? Or maybe there was an upcoming special occasion in your life such as a birthday or anniversary and you received a short notice tasking to the NCO Academy, Moses Lake or a deployment? Unfortunately, this happens more frequently than we like to admit but it is a necessary evil. If we are not flexible, then the mission stops with us. Our families, friends and personal desires may tell us to push back, but the mission success directly correlates to our flexibility.
     Recently, I was conversing with LCDR Simmit, Fairchild's Resiliency Program chief. We discussed many topics, but focused on resiliency--the ability to rebound. He reminded me of a famous quote, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." This resonated within me. Many times we feel task saturated, overworked and underappreciated. Although this may be true, we must remember that our brother's in arms are feeling the same thing. I considered resiliency and its correlation to flexibility and both are vitally important to ensure success in our lives and our work. Flexibility allows us to bend--instead of break--when faced with challenges and resiliency allows us to bounce back when we overcome those challenges.
     As Congress tasks the Department of Defense to make budget cuts and the Air Force experiences cutbacks and increased deployments, we have to find ways to accomplish the mission. This will require us to remain flexible. We cannot remain steadfast in the old ways of doing business. We cannot allow the challenges of "doing more with less" break us. We must bend, look at the situation from a different or new perspective, and press forward, and then we must bounce back and prepare to take on the next challenge.
     The good news is there are programs available to help us learn to be more flexible and resilient. Some programs that come to mind include the AFSO21 program; it challenges us to find a more efficient way of doing business. The IDEA (aka, suggestion) program; it could put a little money in your pocket for coming up with a new process or way to save resources and the resiliency program, which provides you tools and resources to overcome negative stress. 
     Remember, "What does not kill you will make you stronger...Semper Gumby!" Be flexible, be resilient, and be successful.