Airmen doing Real Work

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Waldemar Barnes
  • 336 Training Squadron commander
In the world of physics, the Law of Conservation of Energy states simply that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, just changed from one form to another. In my years since entering the Air Force, I have seen a phenomenon that I consider a variation to that law: the Law of Conservation of "Real Work."

And what is "Real Work" you might ask? Real Work is the series of essential actions that absolutely, positively have to happen, and be done properly, in order for the mission to be executed. Often, it doesn't matter who does the real work; it doesn't matter how they do the real work; it doesn't matter how long it takes to do the real work; but it all has to be done just the same.

The most perfect example is government travel. When I first joined the Air Force and was told to go temporary duty, I went to a sharp non-commissioned officer in charge of TDY orders and travel. All I did was give her dates and locations. A few days after, as if by magic, orders, lodging reservations and plane tickets appeared on my desk. Man, I miss that NCO, because she did all the Real Work.

Alas, she is gone and we have the Defense Travel System. Now I go to my computer, tell DTS I need to travel, I work out the travel itinerary, book my own plane tickets, book my own hotel, book my own rental car and tell it to charge the right fund site. By the way, this will all be paid for with my Government Travel Card, which I have to make sure gets disbursed correctly with my personal expenses, then get reimbursed when I come back to DTS to file the voucher.

Wait...didn't finance used to do this for me? Yeah, they too did some of that Real Work. So, the Real Work for traveling was up to others, but now it has changed forms and has been transferred to you and me.

Where else do we see this phenomenon? Logistics, acquisition and the government purchase card. If you have ever had a GPC, you know exactly what I mean. Gone are the days of runs to the supply warehouse for anything and everything. If you are a GPC holder, you are the one-stop-shop for everything under $2,500 (assuming you trained yourself with computer based training). You have to research competing products, make a source selection for best value, manage the funds transfer and balance the accounts to not overspend.

And with the implementation of Assignment Management System, Base Level Service Delivery Model and all the other Air Force Personnel Center web-applications, we are taking control of more personnel actions than ever. That Real Work used to be done by our orderly rooms and the personnel experts at the Military Personnel Flight.

I honestly can't say if these things are making us do things cheaper, faster or more efficient. They very well might be and that is a good thing for the Air Force during lean times. But it does mean this: your average Joe/Jane cannot be an Airmen in today's Air Force. Because every Airman out there will not only be asked to do their job, they will be asked to do a multitude of tasks that require logic, resourcefulness, attention to detail and, most of all, integrity. You will not only be a flight engineer, or a medical technician or an intel analyst; on any given day you will also need to be a travel agent, a personnelist, a logistician, a resource manager, an accountant, a fitness specialist, a safety expert and any one of a multitude of additional duties (otherwise known as Real Work) that have to be done, and done right, so we can put airplanes in the air, and bombs on target.

It takes a special kind of person to be an Airman today. My hat is off to those who do the Real Work every day. It will never go away or disappear, it will just transfer. Tomorrow, you just may get tagged to do more Real Work that used to be done by someone else. Our Airmen will step up to take on the burden.

By the way, my computer is acting up. I need to go get my additional-duty First Sergeant...he's my Computer System Administrator.