Commentary by Chief Master Sgt. Patrick McMahon
50th Space Wing Command Chief
A more accurate and somewhat longer title might be, bottom-line upfront: The sky isn’t falling, but we need everyone’s engaged and active leadership in these complex and challenging times. It is easy to look across the enterprise and take pause. Significant challenges exist and headlines abound with concerns about budget uncertainty, sexual assaults and suicide rates. A point to remember is we cannot manage our way through change, chaos or combat, it takes determined, deliberate and proactive leadership actions to engage the battle space in front of us. While the challenges are real enough, the motivation for Airmen who comprise our profession of arms is to embrace the opportunity.
Sir Winston Churchill has been attributed with the quote stating, “Gentlemen, we have run out of money, it is now time to think.” This expression aptly fits in today’s fiscal environment. The economic atmosphere tends to be cyclical in nature. And while today’s “fight” may seem foreboding, difficult and a never-before-experienced phenomenon, it is simply a result of the cycle shifting. And in this atmosphere there are two key areas of concern: the tactical fight and the strategic advantage.
The tactical fight revolves around executing those tough decisions that will support near-term budgetary objectives and reduce overall spending. This area requires responsible leadership to achieve the desired state while ensuring core readiness is not negatively impacted long term. These actions won’t be easy, however, they are absolutely necessary to ensure we are best postured once the veil of uncertainty is lifted.
In my opinion, it is in the area of the strategic advantage where an absolute weighted effort needs to occur. Specifically, we need to execute a focused, thoughtful and all-in approach to safeguard our beloved Air Force and to retain its strategic advantage over all adversaries. Our advantage does not rely on the types or amounts of weapon systems we have, but on the team of professionals who execute the Air Force mission each and every day. Our advantage is not predicated on our fiscal capital but on our human capital.
We leverage that advantage through a disciplined and deliberate approach of building leaders through education, training and experience. It is imperative the decisions made in the present don’t have long-term negative effects in the future. Airmen at every level can make a positive and lasting impact on our current challenges. A key way to ensure this occurs is through innovative ideas. We are members of the pre-eminent Air Force on the planet and our innovation has been a cornerstone throughout our history. As Airman we are committed to a common purpose, serving our Air Force and our nation. We can all help shape the success of our Air Force by being staunch advocates of doing things better, smarter and more efficient and by not being deferential to the status quo.
We are experiencing daunting and complex times in our Air Force but undoubtedly, the sky is not falling. Great challenges and adversity present the best opportunity for members of our service to prove their value and worth. These times provide an occasion to revalidate what is an indisputable fact: We are the world’s greatest Air Force powered by Airmen and fueled by innovation. Extraordinary leadership, commitment and energy at all levels will be the solution that carries the day for now and into our future.