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Core values ease fear of change

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- One of mankind's strongest emotions is fear, and one of the strongest fears is the uncertainty induced by change. 

At one time or another, all of us have had issues with something that impacts the world in which we operate.  These issues can drive a very strong desire and or need for change; yet, many of us are uncomfortable and terrified when it occurs or is being advertised, regardless of the presentation. 

In our Air Force, force-shaping, personnel actions and major modifications to key programs, such as the enlisted evaluation system, have many of our Airmen feeling uncomfortable and uncertain. 

In today's fiscally constrained climate, change is a guaranteed reality; our senior and local leaders have been preparing the Force for months that changes will be significant and challenging.  The fact that many of our lives are already filled with a plethora of change is not lost by leadership.  However, leadership is faced with tough decisions that have to be made to ensure the effectiveness of our Air Force and preserve our ability to meet the Nation's security needs well into the future. 

The challenge for us to overcome as supervisors and leaders is how to successfully mitigate the uncertainty and the discomfort of not fully knowing how all of these changes will impact our Airmen. 

As a team, we have to be aware that change if not handled correctly, especially at the level and pace of today, can negatively affect our wing and Air Force's ability to perform the mission-- in our case training the world's best Airmen. 

In order to help prevent this from happening, it is important for all of us to keep our emotions and emotional responses to change in check.  Refraining from highly charged reactions and emotional responses to pending changes in the presence of our Airmen could be detrimental.  This would only serve to further confuse and distract our already stressed Airmen from training and mission accomplishment. 
We should assume the role of a juror and wait for all the facts to be presented.  We must have faith in our leadership and remain constructively engaged both up and down the chain of command.  Introducing negative emotions into the equation will only serve to facilitate poor decision making on any plans to make the Air Force a career, solely based on emotional responses to change. 

To prevent this poor transfer of understanding, we should help our Airmen communicate with the right people and obtain the right information at the right time.  This will help correct misinformation from the rumor mill, and in most cases help the masses understand important details of why the change is necessary.  This is much harder today than in years past, because the speed and numerous modes of information transmission are staggering. 

The Air Force has made communication to Airmen a priority, but there will be lapses that are sometimes unavoidable; as stated earlier, these are major changes that have several layers, many moving parts, and mistakes will be made in the process. 

As supervisors, we must prepare for this and adjust quickly to the amendment of the action or even the reversal of an action.  We can relate this to our Airmen as operating in a combat zone and the actions required when there is an unexpected change in the battlespace.   Equally important, is to focus our Airmen on the benefits and new opportunities that are a direct result of change.  This may be difficult initially, as some of the benefits may not be immediate, they may come much later than expected or may not be understood initially.

In this case, it might be best to use personal examples to demonstrate or discuss past changes that eventually had an upside, when they initially seemed to be negative when rolled out or announced.  We must maintain faith in our leadership; they have kept us the greatest Air Force in the world since 1947. 

It is understandable that some of our Airmen just want everything to stay exactly the same, simply because of the overwhelming feeling of uncertainty about being able to thrive and remain effective in the wake of change. 

These fears can be mitigated simply by advocating the Air Force Core Values.  These values do more than guide us; they inspire us to do our very best at all times.  This means that no matter what the eventual size of the Air Force is, or the changes made, if we truly live the Core Values our Air Force will continue to be the world's greatest and so will we, as Airmen!