Details matter: let's recommit to discipline, high standards

  • Published
  • By Col. Greg Touhill
  • 81st Training Wing commander
I've been very fortunate in my career to have served in a number of assignments that span several decades and several major commands. While my first command was the Tactical Air Command (TAC), where innovation was cherished and competition fostered constant improvement, I have a special place in my heart for the lessons I learned in the Strategic Air Command (SAC). 

In SAC, the command fostered a culture of discipline and rigor ... the core value of "excellence in all we do" was exemplified in SAC well before it became a formal Air Force core value. In SAC, standardized procedures and processes were codified in regulations and checklists. You knew the "regs" and followed the checklist and didn't deviate from them without permission from your commander. Innovation was built into SAC through a well-defined process that allowed you to suggest changes to the regs and checklists; changes which would be independently tested and evaluated before being implemented command-wide. It was said that in SAC you always knew where you stood; the processes were well-defined, predictable, and measured. 

Now, as we reflect on where we've been and where we're going in our Air Force, it is appropriate to recommit ourselves to that culture of discipline and rigor to ensure excellence in all we do. 

Recent events in our Air Force showcase the need for all Airmen to refocus ourselves on paying attention to details to ensure mission accomplishment. Well-publicized and alarming incidents involving loss of positive control of sensitive weapons, security lapses, and safety incidents highlight the catastrophic effects that "simple mistakes" may have. Frankly, these "simple mistakes" are unacceptable and we should not tolerate them. Paying attention to details and doing things right are the keys to success in everything we do to protect our nation. 

As Airmen, we need to do a gut-check to ensure we are paying attention to details, following proper procedures and checklists, correcting mistakes, and ensuring the high standards the nation expects of us. 

First-line supervisors are the key to doing things right the first time, every time. They need to be training their Airmen, empowering them, holding them accountable for their actions, and coaching them to success. Supervisors aren't supposed to be your buddy; they are your boss and are responsible for maintaining good order and discipline...and guess what? So are you! 

Each of us needs to know and follow "the regs" and checklists to do our jobs right and have the courage to raise our hands when we need help or when something needs to be changed for the better. We did not become the world's greatest air, space, and cyberspace force by cutting corners and we will not start now. We will not accept anything but the best from ourselves and our fellow Airmen.