A call to arms - embrace change

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David Morrissey
  • 32nd Flying Training Squadron, director of operations
When I was half way through the T-37 phase of pilot training at Williams Air Force Base, Ariz., the leadership called us into the base theater and informed us that because of the post Gulf War draw down they would be changing the way the assignment process worked. At the end of pilot training only about a third of the graduates would actually go to a flying assignment. The rest of the graduates would be placed in a pilot "bank" and go to other specialties for one tour, and then get recalled to flying status out of the bank. 

This caused a huge uproar - nobody expected the change and at first everyone was very anxious about what the change would mean. Some of my closest friends got "banked". Some resented the Air Force, and complained about the "raw deal" until their recall. Others saw the change for the opportunity that it was. Some went and got Master's degrees, others got great jobs they normally would not be eligible for. 

After I got to my first assignment at Andrews AFB, Md., the commander called us all together and told us that we would be fundamentally changing the way we did business. The Air Force was going to align more with the corporate world and institute "Total Quality Management", or Quality Air Force. The following year the Chief of Staff, General Merrill McPeak changed our uniforms to be more distinctive, and like the Navy, move our rank to our sleeves. Two years later the uniforms changed again. The next year the personnel center moved to an all volunteer assignment system. Three years later they changed it again. In 1998 the Air Force announced that there would be no more below the zone promotions to major. 

Most recently we have transitioned to an "Expeditionary Air Force" and the way we train and educate our officers has changed. And we've added a few more terms ...AFSO 21, Lean, Force Shaping, Volunteer Separation Bonus, RIF. My point is, the only constant I have seen in the Air Force is change. Those that adapt and change quickly succeed, while those that do not are often left behind. 

A few years back I read a great book - "Who Moved My Cheese" by Dr. Spencer Johnson. It tells the story of four distinct characters: Sniff, a mouse who sniffs out change early; Scurry, a mouse that scurries into action; Hem, a man who denies and resists change as he fears it will lead to something worse; and Haw, a man learns to adapt in time when he sees changing leads to something better. The characters live in a maze and every day go to a certain section of the maze where they are provided with cheese. One morning, after a year of going to the same place for cheese, they show up and there is no cheese. The book relates how Sniff immediately moves through the maze to find new cheese. Reluctantly Scurry follows Sniff to the new cheese. Hem and Haw continue to go to the same place in hopes that the old cheese will reappear...it does not. Finally Haw realizes he will have to leave Hem and search out new cheese. In the end Haw finds new cheese and returns to show Hem the way to new cheese. The point of the book is that change is scary and we all react to it differently. Regardless of how we react to change, we must see the handwriting on the wall. 

We are undergoing a lot of change here at Vance AFB. Some of you have not embraced it and keep looking for the old cheese. The old cheese isn't coming back, so embrace the new cheese, it smells much better. We must recapitalize our force, so we are shaving 40 thousand active duty positions. In order to do that we must operate at peak efficiency and eliminate all forms of waste. Whether you agree with the changes or not, you must embrace the changes and do everything in your power to make Team Vance better and keep us focused on providing America with the best trained pilot's period!!