Flexibility -- is it the key to airpower?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Terrance McCaffrey III
  • 8th Flying Training Squadron
I'm sure you've all heard the oft-stated euphemism, "Flexibility is the key to airpower," but have you heard that "indecision is the key to flexibility"?
In the old days, way back when I was a young lieutenant, we said that a lot. We said it because we felt the leadership rarely stepped up and made decisions on important issues.
I remember being at squadron officer school and hearing retired senior officers tell us it was our responsibility to ensure we changed things they failed to accomplish on their watch. It seemed to me they were the ones who had stars on their shoulder not too long before ... they should have fixed those problems. What was a captain supposed to do?
As I get older however, I realize more and more that "they" is "me." I am beginning to understand we all need to work to fix things from the bottom up. If we don't look ahead and make appropriate decisions now, how can we expect to make them when our plate is more heavily laden?
This brings me to my point. We need to take the indecision out of our flexibility by taking responsibility for actions or decisions, and accountability for our units and our wingmen.
This is the beginning of the winter season. Although we have been blessed by good weather so far, old man winter is preparing to come down from the North and turn that around. Flexibility is critical to the mission when the weather turns bad. Whether you are flying an aircraft or a desk, there will soon be times when people can't get to work because of icy roads or because they are snowed in. That's when we all need to be flexible and help our wingman out.
But, that's not the time for indecision. We must take our environment into account to complete the mission. We need to make disciplined and professional decisions at the lowest level of supervision in order to get the mission done safely and effectively. Instructor pilots are responsible for their students and the aircraft we entrust them with ... indecision can kill. Just read accident reports that happen in bad weather; they usually involve something about the individual pressing some kind of limit. You have to slow down when the road ices up, and you have to plan ahead when the weather approaches minimums.
Last year, as the holiday season approached and through late winter, Vance Air Force Base was plagued by a rash of alcohol-related incidents. Although our record over this summer and into the fall has been outstanding, the season is fast approaching when the parties almost outnumber the sorties around the Vance air patch.
This brings up another chance to prove you are flexible. How are you ever going to find babysitters for all those events and stay out of the poor house? It is also a season where indecision can lead to your downfall. No one wakes up in the morning, stretches their arms and says, "It looks like a great day for a DUI." You can't go to a party and think you'll just find a ride home if you've had too much fun. When your judgment is impaired, it's a really bad idea to trust it! Make arrangements before you can't think straight. Then, be responsible enough to follow through with your plan and take accountability for others in your unit as well.
Another winter in Enid, America ... what a great place to be. As we push forward to get the mission done, remember you need to be flexible. Things will come up that will throw you off your schedule. However, when they do, indecision will not make things better. Plan a course of action and stick to it. Remember, be professional and disciplined and the rest will take care of itself.