Don't forget to bring your 'A' game every day

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Michael Merritt
  • 33rd Flying Training Squadron commander
In his commentary two weeks ago my colleague and fellow commander, Lt. Col. Dave "Sparky" Merritt, 71st Operations Support Squadron, said that we all need to "bring our A game every day" and to "never quit." He is absolutely right.

Taking a macro-view of current headlines, it would be very easy with storylines focused on the Facebook phenomenon and covering world-wide financial recoveries, to relax in our military posture. Let me postulate that now, more than ever, every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, Department of Defense civilian and contracting partner needs to bring their A game to work every day.

There is indeed no shortage of issues in Vance's immediate future as we prepare for the base-wide Unit Compliance Inspection in May. We will all be working extra hard to ensure all bases are covered for this inspection. But in this preparation let us not forget why we have these types of inspections in all walks of military life.

Compliance inspections of all kinds ensure military organizations adhere to the guidance and regulations that ensure safe and effective mission accomplishment. This directly equates to mission capability. Our mission at Vance has been the same for nearly 60 years -- to train the world's best pilots for our own DOD and for our allied nations.

We have answered that call here in Enid, Okla., for decades. In that time, the aircraft have changed multiple times and now our mission has three different phases and two different aircraft during the grueling year of undergraduate pilot training - just to be a basic military pilot.

During Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training, we expect all of our student pilots to bring their A game to every sortie in an effort to be the best. For our upcoming UCI inspection, the entire base needs to bring their A game every day and never quit in showing the UCI team how talented we are at making Vance AFB's pilots great.

The continuing drawdown in personnel across the entire DOD also necessitates another cause for bringing your A game every day. Draw downs in end strength for the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy as well as political voices promising withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan further place emphasis on individual competency at all levels.

Continued political fiscal pressures means most likely we are not going to have more people doing the same jobs, but fewer people continuing the mission. This inevitably places more emphasis on job knowledge and technical expertise for every single person on the team. In the 33rd Flying Training Squadron we have been living with this impact to personnel as we continue to produce 100 percent of our production numbers with 80 percent of the required instructor core.

More importantly, as we have continued to draw down in size over the last half decade, we have found a greater need to ensure we retain the critical thinkers, the risk takers and those people who challenge the accepted norms in order to make the organization better. People who continue to challenge the boundaries of the possible will always have a place in the military, though it might take some changes in our archaic "up-or-out promotion system" to solidly instill this kind of new culture in the military.

Corporate America and even global corporations are paying big dollars in the search to replace capitalism with talentism - the global search for the brightest talents in all fields. The DOD has traditionally been a pillar of innovation for our country from aerospace, satellite communications, encrypted algorithms and all aspects of engineering. We need to continue to retain the best and brightest so that they can bring their A game every day and continue our nation's dominance in defense and exporting security.

The final reason for bringing your A game every day is that our competition is not sitting static. When Defense Secretary Robert Gates was in China recently he was greeted with the Chinese unveiling their newest fighter, the J-20, a stealth aircraft remarkably similar to the F-22.

Healthy skepticism has continued to dominate military thinking with regards to China and its military intentions. The simple fact that China - the world's second largest economy and the world's largest country in terms of population - is building a stealth fighter means that each and every one of us needs to be prepared to do our specific jobs with exact precision.

Every day, we need to be on our A game and never quit in our pursuit of getting it right, doing it smarter, faster or with fewer resources. Every single person at Vance AFB becomes a critical link in the success of our overall mission of making great pilots and in the overall mission of our Armed Forces.

Never give up. Always bring your A game.