Who have you thanked?

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Bob Mitchell
  • 71st Mission Support Group
As 2004 comes to a close, this is an excellent opportunity to reflect on Team Vance's outstanding year and the many individual and team contributions that made it happen.
More than 400 student pilots were trained this year, and trained safely, an accomplishment which cannot be overstated. Taking a young person that knows little to nothing about flying, let alone the Air Force, and turning them into a force multiplier within a year is absolutely phenomenal.
If you drive around the base, avoiding closed streets and other obstacles of progress, you will notice the tremendous year we've had improving the base. From completing construction on a new hangar, starting construction on new houses, repairing critical base streets, renovating dormitories, adding to and renovating buildings and starting efforts to move our base perimeter northward from Fox Drive, the base has undergone quite a transformation. Further, in support of the Global War on Terrorism, we deployed and safely returned 55 Team Vance warriors, all of whom provided exceptional support to their deployed operations and often under very trying conditions.
The above accomplishments obviously took dedicated, exceptional efforts by many people across the base to achieve. A number of functions on base are undermanned and their personnel resource constraints are compounded by skill level challenges and deployments. No, we are not the only base in this situation so hopefully this doesn't sound like whining, it's just a statement of fact. What this alludes to though is people have had "opportunities to excel," "additional hats to wear" and "new skills to develop" to ensure our critical mission was accomplished to a very high standard.
This leads me to the topic of my commentary, recognition. With so much going on we often get caught up in just getting the job done. One of the first things set aside or simply overlooked is taking the time to recognize the contributions of peers and subordinates; I know I have been guilty. Recognition can be informal or formal; be as small as taking a moment to give someone a pat on the back in person or "shooting" them an e-mail, for their hard work on a task, or as significant as submitting them for an award or decoration for their sustained contributions to the mission.
Hundreds of books have been written on the importance of recognition and the concept in some form or fashion has existed for ages. For example, back in ancient and medieval times, kings often used lumber, livestock and land for rewarding loyalty, dedication and valor. While this sounds great, many of us would have a hard time figuring out what to do with a bunch of chickens or pigs (then again we are in Oklahoma), or go in debt paying taxes on the land. The wing, within the last year, instituted a wing Airman of the Month awards program, an excellent initiative to recognize our young enlisted troops. Not only are supervisors given the chance to put forth an exceptional Airman each month, our junior enlisted get the chance to show their superiors how sharp they really are by meeting a board. It's a great experience for the Airman and great opportunity for supervisors to say thanks. Also, the Airman receives congratulations and a coin from the wing commander, a one-day pass, a certificate of recognition, radio and television exposure, a stay in a distinguished visitor suite and gift certificates ... not a chicken!
I chose this subject for my commentary for two reasons. First, going back to the first two paragraphs, we have people doing yeoman's work day in and day out that deserve recognition or a strong pat on the back. Second, we are fast approaching the deadlines to submit folks for our base annual and quarterly awards. Yes, this is a shameless plug! In addition to our base awards program there are many annual awards for functional specific efforts, volunteerism, leadership and even for spouse efforts, to name a few. We certainly have the names of Team Vance members written all over many of these categories. If you haven't started building your award packages, you are probably already behind, as I know wing quarterly and annual awards packages are being built as you read this, both figuratively in the actions of nominees as well as literally in the hours spent by supervisors and commanders painstakingly painting the best pictures of their people within the constraints of an electronic form. Those of you who have written awards packages know what I'm talking about. These awards are a great chance for individuals across all functional areas on base to be recognized for their contributions to the mission as well as their professional development efforts and involvement in the base and local community.
I want to leave you with a short story about how impacting a simple, informal expression of recognition can be. While at a previous base, there was an employee who worked in the base fitness center who always greeted you with a smile, always provided exceptional customer service and looked for ways to ensure everyone's workout was a great one, from military to civilians, from the wing commander to the youngest Airman. So one day I decided to e-mail the director of services to let him know what a great employee he had and what a positive impact he had on the fitness center. It took all of five minutes to draft and send the e-mail. As it turns out, he read the e-mail at a staff meeting with the employee present. The employee was very surprised and extremely thankful that someone took the time to recognize his hard work. Even more importantly, when he tracked me down to thank me, he said it had a positive impact on the entire fitness center staff. Not bad for something that was the right thing to do and that took so very little time to author.
Recognition is extremely important to both organizational and individual success. It is imperative we recognize Team Vance members whose commitment and daily, outstanding efforts produce the Air Force's finest pilots while at the same time ensuring we meet critical Air Expeditionary Force commitments with well trained and highly motivated Airmen.