Dedication, drive, desire help Airmen achieve excellence

  • Published
  • By Lt Col. David B. Gaskill
  • 1st Airborne Command and Control Squadron, commander
On May 3rd 2009, 10 dedicated 1st Airborne Command and Control Squadron and six National Airborne Operations Center personnel participated in the Lincoln Marathon. Two of the 14 completed the marathon while others ran or walked the half-marathon. Dedication, drive and desire are the only words that can be used to describe what these individuals have been living since last December. 

These runners proved that when physical fitness is made a priority in people's lives, people can make good progress towards success. So much of what we can or cannot accomplish is decided by us. In the words of Henry Ford, "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're always right." I doubt any of the runners enjoyed getting up at 5 a.m. every Saturday for 20 weeks, the pasta overload every Friday night, or spending money on clothing or running shoes. But, even the last finishers aren't back-of-the-packers. They're the back of the front, still among the elite one-tenth of one percent of Americans who can and do finish a marathon. 

Dedication, drive and desire must come from the individual and it requires self-discipline. As the 1st ACCS commander, I attempt to build team excellence but I cannot command it. As a father, I stress to my five and nine-year-old-children the importance of doing the right thing when no one is looking; some define this as integrity. Teaching my kids the importance of finishing their homework seems like a trivial task when compared to running a marathon; however, it requires self-discipline. The same self-discipline I expect Airmen to have in aircraft, on the flight line or the office. Marathon runners who cut corners in training are not helping themselves on race day. Likewise, self-disciplined airmen don't take shortcuts to save a few minutes. We must have integrity to guide decisions, which can be directly attributed to excellence in all we do. 

Preparation is key for success. I believe team excellence can be developed with hard work and tenacity. Wing exercises teach us how to operate as a team and gain valuable experience. As team members and missions change, new ideas and challenges emerge. What seemed like a good plan yesterday could be irrelevant tomorrow. Local training sorties, Operational Readiness and Major Accident Response Exercises, as well as Random Anti-terrorism Measures are all valuable tools designed to teach us how we contribute to the team. Use the exercises to hone your skills and be cognizant of how you can develop your decision making abilities. 

But preparation won't be enough. Some marathon runners say the hardest part of the race is not the obvious physical challenge, but the mental journey. Critical thinking skills require problem solving abilities developed by thoroughly understanding your capabilities and limitations. Despite your best efforts you will not be able to train for every future challenge. When faced with a crisis you must focus on the mission and be able to execute. Understanding what capabilities, limitations and processes are required to overcome new challenges is the true test of excellence. 

Following through actions is essential. Identifying, documenting and reporting discrepancies are only part of the battle. Following through with after action results must be tracked to ensure all needed procedure and checklist changes are made. To achieve team excellence, we must share our new found knowledge and not create empires that lead to single points of failure. Acting in this way sends a message that you believe in team goals and are willing to put the service of others before personal ambitions. 

A race starts with a single step and a marathon with a single mile. Thousands of Airmen make a difference everyday. Every step they take is a new accomplishment; with every additional step they become stronger and more confident. Our core values of excellence, integrity and service before self give ordinary people the opportunity to become outstanding Airmen. Every Airman has the opportunity to make a difference and take that first step. Those who choose to let the core values guide their decisions will undoubtedly achieve excellence and make the biggest contribution over time. There is no final step--only the next step in our next journey of a thousand miles.