• Published
  • By John Viers
  • 97 AMW Maintenance Division
Change is all around us, affecting every facet of our lives. Whether it's your personal or professional life, you will encounter change. How you choose to deal with change is up to you, but depending on which of the following three primary options you choose will affect your health and mental wellness over the long term. I've found the most commonly selected options are: (1) embrace the change with open arms, be supportive of the change and find the "gold at the end of the rainbow" that will enrich your life, (2) accept the change, although with some reservation and question whether it will have a positive or negative impact on you, or (3) fight the change no matter what, be the consummate "naysayer", the one who is disgruntled, negative, and can never find the "silver lining"; accepting the latter as your stance in life will only lead to poor health, lack of respect, and impact your relationship with others.

Over the last 43 years I've either witnessed or have been a part of many changes the Air Force has undergone. It all started with a $5 bet that led me to the recruiter's office. Of course it was an easy decision back then, either you went to college, joined the military branch of your choice, or by the time you were 18 ½ your "Friends and Neighbors" would duly select (draft) you in to a life of servitude as a member of the Army. Times truly have changed, for today you're here of your own free will.

Some of the more memorable changes have been ones affecting how we interface with each other or changes in concept of operation. The premier one affecting how we interact with others occurred in the late 60's, early 70's and dealt with one of the most troublesome issues affecting our country at the time - race relations. We yearly attended classes where small groups of airman with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds discussed their differences, life experiences, and in general, ways to set aside those differences and work together to become a cohesive unit. At the time it brought out either option 2 or 3 in many people because changing years of strife and conflict over the color of a person's skin or their religious preference/ background was a major step in healing our military society as we worked towards the ultimate goal of mutual acceptance. As I look back on it though I realize how important it was for our leadership to undertake this challenge of change and acceptance, and how it has made our Air Force and the world a better place to serve and live.

Other more memorable and perhaps misunderstood changes took place in the 90's. The one most dear to my heart was the fall of Strategic Air Command (SAC). SAC was the ultimate Command during the Cold War, offering a nuclear deterrence that kept calm and balance. Unfortunately the rules of war changed and the "Nuke 'em 'til they glow" approach to winning had to be set aside. Changes in how our enemy fights and defines the battlefield led to the need for a more flexible "Air Power", and as many of you are aware deployments to a Forward Operating Location (FOL) are now a way of life. The other change that left many wondering was the implementation of Total Quality Management (TQM). Conceptually it had its good points for satisfying the customer, the supplier, and continuous improvement. Perhaps one of its biggest pitfalls was we as a military society wanted to effect change right now, and programs such as these take years to implement and mature in order to reap the benefits. Most walked away with the only thing learned was building charts for everything they did, and somehow missed the boat on the basic concept of what was trying to be achieved.

The Air Force is now in the infancy stage of two very important process changes, and hopefully we've learned from the stumbling blocks encountered during the TQM craze, and we're more patient and willing to stay the course. The two programs I'm speaking of are AFSO21/LEAN and the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). If you'll choose option 1 from above, and give them a chance, I believe you'll find out they'll improve your professional and personal life. AFSO21/LEAN can make your work place more effective and efficient by improving your processes, and eliminating waste. VPP on the other hand is all about employee involvement and creating a better safety culture, and can lead to improvement in work processes by eliminating or mitigating hazards and dangers. It's a proven process used throughout the civilian industry. Remember, good change often takes time to become effective. So give these programs time to mature, and you'll reap the benefits over the long run.

By the way, going back to option 3, I do have my days when I'm the consummate "naysayer" - after all we're only human.