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News > Commentary - Good old fashioned initiative
Good old fashioned initiative

Posted 10/31/2012   Updated 10/31/2012 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Lt. Col. Craig M. Harmon
Commander, 9th Airlift Squadron

10/31/2012 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- One of the most rewarding things I have been able to do as a commander is sit down with many young Airmen and officers and mentor them. One common question I get is "what is the key to success in the military?" Well as you can see in the title I've already tipped you off on what one of my responses would be. There is nothing that impresses me more than when I hear a story of someone seeing an issue, researching the problem, proposing an efficient and effective solution, and fixing it, especially when that person is not necessarily responsible for the section with the issue. That is how I define initiative. Through initiative I think it is one of the most effective ways of becoming that "go-to-Airman," which is what I mentor everyone to strive to become.

I have also heard Airmen feel they are not empowered to make changes and exercise initiative. Personally I think that is nothing more than an excuse. The Department of Defense and the Air Force have developed many programs like AFSO 21 and the IDEA program to help empower the individual to make change. Outside of those programs, I feel it is extremely important to establish a climate of empowerment and process improvement starting at the lowest levels of leadership to make his or her Airmen feel they have a voice as subject matter experts with the ability to effect change.

I have attempted to clear the empowerment barriers in my squadron through encouraging my supervisors to recognize and reward those who excel, especially when it comes to making change to improve efficiency or effectiveness of their sections and ultimately the mission. All too often I hear that we do things just because that is "just the way we do it." Surprisingly though when the question is asked if they would do it differently the answer is generally yes. These folks are what I like to call "Idea Fairies." Great with coming up with ideas but not so great with putting them into application. Having initiative is not only about the idea but, more importantly about figuring out how to put the idea into action where the true value of this quality is realized.

In the current fiscally-strapped environment we operate in today, we must make every effort to utilize our resources in the most efficient and effective way. We owe it to ourselves and the tax payers to stretch every dollar we spend in the military and make it go as far as we can. Through an environment of process improvement that is conducive to encouraging our gifted Airmen to strive for continual self-improvement and efficacy I am confident that no matter the carrier field we can accomplish this goal. So as you head to work today ask yourself what you can do better and what ways you can empower your Airmen. Regardless of what rank or position you hold you can make a difference, who knows you may even find that your boss calling you her "go-to-Airman!"

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