TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - I still remember a humid October 1993 night in San Antonio when I stepped off the bus and onto Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where we were “cordially greeted” by Basic Military Training Instructors.
We were berated as if we had personally insulted their mothers. On that government issued cot that night, I thought, "What have I gotten myself into?" I certainly did not know why the TIs were employing this new, to me, mental torture. You could say my faith was quite low.
Many fear not knowing when, how or why certain decisions are made. Whether it’s “Big Air Force” deploying us, sending us to foreign lands or even to our hometowns, especially if you joined to “see the world,” we aren't always privileged enough to be involved in the decision.
In BMT, a certain comfort was found in being given direct orders. They were detailed, to the point and clear, which are very good things. As seasoned Airmen, it’s much easier to do your job when you already have all the rules and regulations. Unfortunately, you don't always have this luxury.
Back in the mid-‘90’s, Air Force Regulations became Air Force Instructions. This paradigm shift was not designed to minimize military standards, but to allow leaders the creativity to make the right decisions and capture innovative efficiencies. The past couple generations have been taught to question why decisions are made and that is a good thing, within reason. A wise person once told me those who understand how things are done will always work for people who know why.
Several new Air Force policies have generated questions, especially about Enlisted Force Distribution Panels, Enlisted Performance Reports and promotion boards. It’s in this unchartered territory where junior Airmen struggle. I contend your record will speak to your leaders. You need to trust them and the system.
Perhaps this is where faith comes in. Faith generally enters when you can't see something. I agree, but I also contend that faith is actually seeing something or someone, in action. I'm talking about the leaders appointed over you. They see your record and what you do. They consult up and down the chain of command. They are part of a system.
The beauty of systems is their success does not lie within one, but the whole. Think New England Patriots, San Antonio Spurs or Los Angeles Lakers of old. They won with systems. We are privileged members of one of the greatest military systems in the world -- the U.S. Air Force successful since September 18, 1947.
BMT’s madness may have seemed strange, but now it makes sense. BMT will continue to do the same for many future American Airmen. The changes taking place in our system now have a certain genius about them. Just stay the course, trust your leaders and have faith in the system. One day, young leader, you get to explain your Air Force’s decisions to your Airmen.