Figure out a way to say 'yes'

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David Merritt
  • 71st Operations Support Squadron commander
When it comes to doing your job and supporting the customer, find a way to say yes.

I was recently on leave due to a death in the family, so I left no-notice. I had an enlisted performance report I needed to sign and unfortunately I did not remember to bring a common-access-card laptop with me.

My parents live just a short drive from an Air Force base and I figured somewhere on that base I could log on to webmail, download the EPR, sign it and send it back to Vance in an effort to remain off the Force Support Squadron's bad-boy list. After all, the Air Force is the cyberspace lead. No problem, right?

So off I went. I stopped to see several friends on the base and quickly realized my CAC wasn't enabled for that base's local area network. I decided the military personnel flight was the place to go see if my mission could be completed.

I signed in and waited to be helped. First stop was an NCO. I explained that I was an out-of-town squadron commander who needed to CAC sign an EPR. I was directed to the Airman & Family Readiness Center to see if I could get computer access there.

So I tried that. Nope.

I tried lodging. Nope.

I returned to MPF to have another NCO say, "I'm pretty sure that can't be done."
I asked if someone would just check my card to see if there was a way to give me permissions to the base network just to sign an EPR. "Don't think that can be done." "We can't do that, sir."

But I'm persistent, always professional, but persistent. I think they figured out I wasn't going to go away until someone tried. So they sent me back to see a young Airman. I explained my situation to her and I figured she was going to give me the same line I'd gotten at the front desk. But she thought for a minute and said, "Let me try something."

Now I'm an ops guy. The finer details of how common access cards work, special permissions required within personnel systems, or why I can't go to another base and use my CAC are not something I understand. But this Airman did.

She was typing away and in about five minutes she developed a work around that had the EPR open and me signing it. Then, when webmail wouldn't send the document, she even figured out a way to retrieve the document from the desktop and sent it to my executive officer here at Vance. "Anything else this morning, sir?" she said very matter-of-factly.

Man, was I impressed. She'd figured out how to say "yes" when it would have been very easy for her to tell me, "sorry." She solved the problem when no one else seemed willing to tackle it. She went beyond the "if-then" of procedures and checklists and thought her way through the issue. Saying yes took effort and commitment to solving the problem, even though it wasn't hers and was slightly out of her lane.

I made quite a show, exclaiming loudly in the open office area, "That's what I'm talking about! Nicely done, Airman." I thanked her, gave her a coin, and politely asked where her supervisor was. I told the supervisor she had one hell of an Airman in her unit and she should be proud of her. I'd be happy to have her as a Ghostrider any day.

In my year in squadron command I've learned that there is rarely a textbook answer because there is rarely a textbook problem. The Air Force needs problems solvers who aren't afraid of a challenge, no matter how big or small.

Figure out how to say "yes."