New year brings January challenge, renewed commitment

  • Published
  • By Col. Chris Nowland
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Commander
Welcome back Team Vance! I hope you are recharged -- mentally, spiritually and physically -- for a fantastic new year. Now is the right time to lean forward. What's your vision for balance and success this year? How are you going to keep your mental tools sharp? How are you going to strengthen your spirituality? And warriors... what are you doing physically?

Our number one priority is our mission. We have pilots to train, Airmen to deploy and support, and three Army units to integrate at Vance this coming year. Our mission demands our very best, but my number one rule in all of this remains "Survive." You can't contribute your best to your job or your family if you are ill, injured or worse. One of the key principles to operational risk management is eliminating unnecessary risks.

This gets to the heart of the Voluntary Protection Program; the Wing, along with our contracting partners, is raising the bar on workplace safety. Last year, the Wing developed a VPP implementation plan, a communications plan and concept of operations for the next 18 months. The attention and teamwork of every Airman, every supervisor and every commander is needed to identify and remove unnecessary risks from the workplace. This integrates seamlessly into my rule number two: "Mutual support in all things."

Real Wingmen help each other check for blind spots, no matter how small. Check six and come up on frequency when required to warn your Wingman about impending threats before they occur. If you can, eliminate the threat on your own, so your Wingman is never exposed to the potential danger.

Our next Wing priority is perfecting our emergency management. I'm pleased with the significant improvements we made last year, but with ever-changing technology and challenges, emergency management is not a topic we can afford to push to the sidelines. When a real emergency takes place, others will be counting on your special expertise to protect lives and property.

Studies of psychology demonstrate that in the heat of the moment, what your brain learned during those inconvenient drills or exercises can determine the precious seconds between life and death. To borrow from a 1965 letter written by Coach John Wooden to his University of California, Los Angeles basketball team, "You must discipline yourself to do what is expected of you for the welfare of the team."

This concept coincides with my rule number four: "Be an expert at what you do."

Our fourth Wing priority is developing Airmen. I hope you caught up on some reading on the plane or at home while Oklahoma received a heavy dose of wintry mix. Don't let professional development opportunities - the Air Education and Training Command's Symposium, special assignments, professional military education, advanced degree opportunities and/or writing teams - pass you or other deserving personnel by this year. Whether you're in emergency mode or not, be the person on whom others can count.

My third priority for the Wing is to effectively develop contract compliance as a core competency. We are taking important steps through quality assurance and our contracting office to ensure our contract language matches our mission and expectations. We are also taking important steps to make our expectations match what's in the contract. The lesson here is communication, which lines up nicely with my rule number three: "Communication is the key." Expectations, constructive feedback and teamwork all rely on your efforts in communicating with one another at all levels -- contractor, Reservist, government civilian or active duty. Never assume the other guy received the word; stay focused and verify that everyone understands the message.

I'm grateful for the opportunities and challenges that this new year brings. To be proactive, look into the future and forecast your work, your challenges and your visitors so the team can establish a battle rhythm to ensure success. All workers dislike reactive work cycles. It screws up the day, the plan, the karma. So plan ahead, and calibrate your spirituality, fortify your bodies and sharpen your minds. Lean forward warriors, lean forward Team Vance.