Change can be “tough”

Maj. Naomi Henigin, 60th Force Support Squadron commander, shares some thoughts on the impact of change. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

Maj. Naomi Henigin, 60th Force Support Squadron commander, shares some thoughts on the impact of change. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Change is tough.  Despite the fact that change is almost constant in our lives, our initial reaction is usually one of derision and skepticism.  There is usually some excitement there, too, especially when the change is big.  The mixture of uncertainty and excitement is uncomfortable, so we resist.  We may know that it’s for the best and when we force ourselves, especially as leaders, to find the benefits of it, we can usually do so pretty quickly; but it’s still tough. 

I’ve asked much of my Airmen over the past year in terms of change.  Most significantly for many of them is this little thing we call Total Force Support Squadron.  Unless you’re one of the many people bummed by the loss of the secret gem of the 349th FSS ID card office where you could get a new common access card in a matter of minutes, the integration of the 60th and 349th FSS into the TFSS probably hasn’t made an impact on you yet.  And we’re glad—we want it to be seamless for our customers.

However, for my teams down in the Military Personnel Section, the Education Center and the Airman and Family Readiness Center, it was a bit of an ordeal to rearrange work centers, partition out offices and figure out how to make room for our new colleagues.  For the members of the 349th FSS who literally left their home to move in with us, to break from the comfort of their duty sections and long-time cubicle mates to enter into unchartered territory, it was a leap of faith into an uncertain environment.  The impact to our individual members has been significant.

So, how are we doing with the change?  Well, it’s tough.  We made the big moves in early March and we enjoyed the “honeymoon phase,” which gave us a glimpse into the productivity that is possible with total force integration.  As we move forward with the change, we’re figuring things out.  The TFSS is a new initiative.  Travis is on the leading edge of this change and we are doing it more completely than any other TFSS has done.  In other words, we’re writing the playbook.  We don’t have all the answers and much of what we’re accomplishing is the result of trial and error—and that’s tough. 

Aspects that we thought would be tough are actually moving along smoothly and, as is typical with new endeavors, we weren’t anticipating challenges in areas where we are seeing them pop up.  So now that we’re “storming” a little bit here and there, we know that we’re moving forward in the right direction. 

Every successful team has to navigate through some obstacles.  So we embrace the challenges, take copious notes, and press through every rough spot with the belief and knowledge that what we’re doing with TFSS is pushing the Air Force forward. As I heard Col. Raymond Kozak, 349th Air Mobility Wing commander, mention several months ago: “The times have already changed…total force integration is happening all around us.” We cannot afford to approach this change with anything less than total commitment to success. 

The monumental reality of the Air Force-wide impact of our ‘office moves’ at Travis Air Force Base, California, keeps me up at night.  Every hiccup, every stumble, every minor setback sends a wave of worry and fear through me that this change is just too tough.  But then I go down into the MPS, the Education Center, or the A&FRC and I feel the excitement that is still there. We sit down with whoever is “storming” at the moment and get back to the basics of communication, empathy and mutual respect.  And we remember that this change is going to be uncomfortable, and that it’s normal for change to be tough.  Sometimes, we even stop long enough to think about the day when it won’t be uncomfortable anymore, when the change is behind us, and when we are reaping the benefits that we once had to force ourselves to find.