The fun starts here

  • Published
  • By Maj. Melissa Cunningham
  • 92nd Communications Squadron Commander
During military retirement ceremonies, I have often heard members comment during their speech that they never intended to make the military a career. They planned to stay in as long as they were having "fun" and before they knew it, 20 or more years had slipped by. Their speeches included the thankfulness for great friendships depicted by funny deployment stories and being proud of what their units had accomplished. I have never heard someone say that they stayed in because they thoroughly enjoyed the seriousness of our line of work. Today's military is facing many challenges with high operations tempo abroad and in many cases higher ops tempos at home as we pick up the in-garrison load of those tasked to the front. The stress and long hours do not make service to the nation inherently "fun."

So, whose responsibility is it to create that positive feeling in the squadron? In four years at the Air Force Academy, multiple professional military education programs, and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force's Reading Lists, I have never come across the topic of creating a "fun" culture in the Air Force under any of the leadership themes. Don't get me wrong, discussions about leadership traits, character, critical thinking, decision making and foresight are very important, but it doesn't directly translate into providing tools to make your organization a great place to work. I mean, hey, if you are going to be there twelve hours a day anyway, at least you can have fun while you are there, right?

Co-founder, and former Chairmen and CEO of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher, got it. Much of the success of Southwest Airlines is attributed to Kelleher's energetic personality. His penchant for laughter and zany antics such as settling a legal dispute with an arm wrestling contest rather than going to court created a corporate culture in which Southwest employees are renown for taking themselves lightly but their jobs seriously. Southwest continues to be named among the top five Most Admired Corporations in America in Fortune magazine's annual poll.

We can't be Southwest Airlines, but we can set the tone for the climate in our organizations. If you are positive and create an environment where people can have fun, they will. There is a place for humor in the workplace. For instance, you can join the Communications Squadron for a gas mask inspection in conjunction with our Chili Cook-off this fall. Take care of a little readiness training, a little morale, welfare, and recreation and you'll have the proper equipment handy if the need arises to go to Alarm Red.

Speaking of readiness training, one of the main topics Col. Marty Morrison, the 92nd Operations Group commander, stressed to his Operational Readiness Inspection team was the importance of maintaining a positive attitude and how it could make or break our success during the evaluation. I wholeheartedly agree with him. The next six months will be increasingly stressful on the wing and guard units as we prepare for the main event in March. As leaders, we need to be intentional about creating ways to breed positive energy and fun back into the workplace. Fun starts at the top. Research strongly supports that humor facilitates communication, builds relationships, reduces stress, provides perspective and energizes employees. Who couldn't use a little of that?