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News > Commentary - The basic steps to keeping Dover AFB strong
The basic steps to keeping Dover AFB strong

Posted 12/18/2012   Updated 12/18/2012 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Col. Thomas Reppart
Commander, 436th Mission Support group

12/18/2012 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Lt. Col. Darrell Smith said in the Dec. 7 Airlifter's article, "there is something special here at Dover..." and I couldn't agree more! Since my arrival this past summer, I've thought the very same thing and have told countless people that "Dover feels good."

I was not sure how to articulate why I felt this way, I just did. The atmosphere, the people, and the mission had a tangible buzz of excitement, of effectiveness. Over the past several months I have struggled to define that greatness, but I'll keep working at it to ensure we avoid losing it. Doc Smith said "it is the people" that makes Dover special; but, there are great people throughout the Air Force, so what makes us unique?

Perhaps it's because we've created a culture that allows our Airmen to challenge the status-quo. I am reminded of my favorite quote: "behold the turtle; he only makes progress when he sticks his neck out." People are going to make mistakes. They aren't trying if they don't! We just try to keep from making the same mistake twice.

Watching Dover's Airmen innovate, streamline outdated processes, and do more with less continues to impress me every day. It's on the shoulders of these ingenious Airmen that we'll continue to "Deliver Today's Airlift and Forge Tomorrow's Leaders." With shrinking Air Force resources, we must continue searching for creative ways to accomplish the mission and sometimes these solutions will require us to assume some risk.

But as we rethink the way we do business, I believe there are a few fundamental elements where, we cannot afford to take risks. These are the areas essential to fostering an environment of mutual respect that values every member of Team Dover.

People Are Our Most Valuable Resource

Get to know your peers, subordinates and bosses. As opportunities present themselves, look for ways to develop the next generation of leaders. Take the time to reward excellence... we are normally very good at finding fault. Remember to take care of your Airmen and yourself. Continue to develop and challenge yourself both personally and professionally. Make time to recharge. Remember, it is your family and friends that you rely on most after this career is over.

Values Are Our Bedrock

Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage are enduring principles that have made us the best military in the world and will continue to guide us in the future. If we adhere to these values in our daily lives, we will create a climate of excellence that is unbeatable. Always doing what is right and respecting others are absolute musts. If you find yourself in a troubling situation or facing a difficult decision, reach back to these values - you will always be guided in the right direction.

Keep Lines of Communication Open and Strong

Create a culture where people feel comfortable sharing "the good, the bad, and the ugly." Encourage open dialogue and listen to ideas and suggestions. Remember - bad news does not get better with age, so do not shoot the messenger who brings it to you quickly. I have found things that appear complex at first are often not as difficult as once thought.

Know Your Lane and Do Your Job Well

Your boss does not want to do your job! They expect that you are the expert in your field and that you are doing your very best each and every day. Doing your job well also means training your Airmen to achieve the same high level of excellence. If you are not there, the job should still get done. Make sure the people you leave in charge know the mission, can do the job, and can answer the questions when asked. Empower your people. Remember, you can get a lot done if you do not worry about who gets the credit.

Remember the Basics

Have you read the new AFI 1-1 Air Force Standards lately? Why did the Air Force feel an obligation to "reissue" an updated version of this old ethics guide? Have we really steered that far off our moral compass? If we maintain these basics, we'll create a culture that our great Airmen will be proud of and the resulting performance will be amazing... and that's when our ingenuity can really take off. Maybe that's the "it" I've been searching for... a combination of what Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force Gen. Welsh describes as "people, pride, and performance." Now I just need to figure out how to quantify it to ensure we don't lose it!

As I continue on my quest, I ask that much like the turtle, when you do choose to stick your neck out, be confident in yourself and your decisions. Set the tone for your subordinates. If you remember the basics, value the right things, and take calculated risks - it is you who will be keeping Dover Air Force Base a truly special place to live, work and play!

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