And a car that flies

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jennifer Riggins
  • 97th Medical Support Squadron
Several years ago when my oldest niece started school, I used to tell her, "Have a great day! Learn a lot! Change the world.....and build me a car that flies."  I remember the first time I said this she gave me an odd look and said, "I can't change the world, I'm a kid."  When she considered the flying car request, I could tell from the look on her face that she was confused. As the world's greatest aunt, having a flying car would improve my access to her and her sister, but since she was not well versed in travel challenges, the intent behind the request was lost.  As both my nieces have grown and matured through the years, I still remind them to learn a lot and change the world, and as their understanding of the complexities of our world increases, I sense an interest in meeting that challenge.

Recently I have attended a couple of different training events and I found it interestingly ironic that the primary message I heard was a variation of my challenge to "change the world."  As I reflected on the points discussed during these training sessions, I couldn't help but wonder what our world would be like if those who have changed our world had not been strong enough to follow their passion, even against all odds. 

As Air Force leaders with long careers and many different experiences, we learn quickly that ideas and processes that have worked for years sometimes become questioned and challenged after using them over time. So inevitably we agree to try something new with the expectation that new isn't necessarily better.  What happens though when the new idea actually makes the old process more efficient than it was before?  What happens when leaders believe, trust and support those new ideas coming from our junior personnel?  Is it possible that with the right amount of direction and support, we begin to empower the next generation of leaders? 

Within the Squadron that I command at the Altus Air Force Base Medical Clinic, I am very privileged to serve with and command a variety of young professionals from several different medical support career fields.  The qualities that I frequently see are passion, ambition and determination to meet all goals, whether mission, professional or personal.  Because we are not over-staffed with excess senior leaders or funds, to ensure that we continue to provide excellent healthcare to our beneficiaries I must embrace the creativity of these brilliant rising stars.

Today's Air Force is increasingly competitive and the days of operating "as we've always done" have almost faded into a distant memory.  We must trust the innovative ideas of our people.  We cannot afford to hold Airmen back as they suggest ideas to help us move forward to meet our mission with reduced resources.  Not only could the immediate outcome result in improved efficiency, but the long-term result could certainly include a world in which personal flying and other previously undreamed innovations become reality instead of fantasy.