Reflections on 30 years of Air Force knowledge

  • Published
  • By Maj. John Ponton
  • 81st Force Support Squadron
People are often surprised upon learning I've been in our Air Force for 30 years. Yes, it is true; I still remember a time when we performed our mission without the aid of computers, e-mail, cell phones or even photo copiers.

But although we have changed drastically in a strictly technological sense, certain tenets still ring true. Namely, we must always strive to take care of the Airmen, civilians and family members who freely volunteer their service to our country.

As the 81st Force Support Squadron commander, I'm especially sensitive to the needs of our entire base population. I know the importance of providing outstanding manpower, personnel and services support. In essence, we are touching people's lives in every conceivable way, from the youngest infants to our most senior retirees. That's a big job, and it doesn't get done without the outstanding work of hundreds of people.

One of the most important and enjoyable things I get to do is to ensure that these people are appreciated for their efforts. That's not solely a duty of command - it is true for leaders at every level. As an Airman, I learned very early on the importance of recognition and both the positive and negative impacts felt based upon how well leaders acknowledged their people's efforts.

Although these are challenging times for the Air Force, this is not new territory for us. As previously mentioned, we have made huge advances in our technological capability and operational effectiveness. This has allowed continuation of our Air Force mission despite the force being half the size it was 30 years ago.

In Air Education and Training Command, we call this a Culture of Cost Consciousness, commonly referred to as C3, but the fact is we have been doing more with less for years.
For our newest Airmen, the current fiscally-restrained environment will likely be considered "normal" for the foreseeable future. We are collectively smart and committed enough to persevere as we have always done, no matter the funding landscape.

Lastly, I know the importance of treating each other with mutual respect. In my mind, this means that I am here to serve my squadron, not the other way around. It also speaks to the fact that we are an extremely diverse force, with all manners of experience, education and background. The positive effects of embracing people for the value they bring to our Air Force cannot be overestimated. When you greet nonprior-service Airmen, don't just say hello and walk by; take a minute to find out where they are from and thank them for serving our country. When you meet a retiree, tell him how much his service is appreciated. And never forget that no matter where we work or what positions we hold, we are all on the same team...the best base in the Air Force!