You are a great team – here’s where we’re going next

  • Published
  • By Col. Chris Nowland
  • 71st Flying Training Wing commander
I'm back from 10 weeks of advanced professional military education. The Joint Combined Warfighting School helped develop my understanding of the Joint Planning process, but as most schools, the best part was meeting and interacting with the other students. 

However, I want you all to know I missed the excitement of working with Team Vance. We certainly will face some challenges this next year. Putting the "Team" back into Team Vance will be a task I ask everyone to work at each day. 

As I enter my second year of commanding this fine organization I'd like to share my goals for the next 12 months. 

Four primary goals will guide the actions and efforts of the Wing: 

1) Mission execution - everyone is connected to the mission and everyone must work together in accomplishing their duty each day.
2) Perfect our emergency management - and demonstrate it with a graduation exercise.
3) Develop our Airmen - give them the right tools and get them the right recognition.
4) Establish an organization to effectively develop contract compliance as a core competency. 

Each of these goals is simple in concept but fairly complex in how to make it happen. I want to share with you my thoughts and expectations on them one at a time. This week, let's look at number one - Mission execution. 

We are here to train pilots - Air Force, Navy, Marine and allied pilots. We want them to be the best pilots possible. Our freedom, and the freedom of our allies, will one day depend on just how well we train those pilots. 

I want to develop and experiment with ways of increasing the quality of pilot training while reducing the washout rate. The Marines are successfully using a process of mental training that has reduced the washout rate in one of their toughest courses - sniper training. 

This mental training teaches the subconscious, your core, to visually process, recognize patterns and find solutions quicker and more efficiently. It could enhance our student pilot training and reduce washout rates. I want to try. 

The need for pilots continues to grow and our ability to produce pilots is not meeting that need. The Air Force needs every top quality pilot we can graduate. 

I also don't think we're maximizing use of an incredibly unique manpower pool available at Vance - the "casual" lieutenant. What we do with these educated and motivated young men and women during their first encounter with our Air Force can have a major effect on how they perform in pilot training and how they develop as leaders. 

In July, 221 new lieutenants will arrive on base. Out of those 221 there could be a future astronaut or a chief of staff of the Air Force. There can easily be two or three general officers. We need to capitalize on that potential, gain the most benefit for the base and give these lieutenants a glimpse of the fantastic journey they have begun. 

Remember, our mission is to produce the highest caliber pilot we can. We will establish a wing priority list so we can put these "casual" lieutenants in jobs that will help them become better officers and eventually, better pilots. 

We also need to develop a single-engine mind set. The T-6A Texas II is not a T-37 Tweet. The T-6 has one engine. We are going to lead the command in realizing and transitioning into a new mentality about how you train undergraduate student pilots in a single-engine airplane. 

In the Tweet, you could lose an engine and still bring the aircraft back safely on the second engine. Not so with the T-6. Lose that engine and you have to recover the aircraft in an emergency landing pattern - or punch out - a very different mind set. 

We are going to teach our students a new and different way of thinking about things - a different level of Airmanship. As is appropriate for a professional and motivated team like Vance, we are going to break new ground. 

And now my last and possibly most important point -- no organization, no matter how well equipped or funded, can produce a quality product without people - motivated, professional, balanced people. 

We will work on developing patterns of initiative that allow our Airmen to maintain balance between their professional and personal lives. By using our tools, such as the Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century office, we want to come up with ways to refine and improve how we do business. 

I'm not interested in doing more with less -- I'm interested in working more efficiently with less. I'm interested in giving time back to our people. Time they can invest in enjoying this fantastic assignment to Vance -- right outside Enid, America. 

It is good to be back. You are a great team, a motivated and innovative team. You are the team Gen. George S. Patton was speaking of when he said, "Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results." 

I look forward to the surprise.