To win, we must be tough, disciplined

Lt. Col. Blaine Baker, 82st Contingency Response Squadron commander, shares his thoughts on leading and empowering Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Lt. Col. Blaine Baker, 82st Contingency Response Squadron commander, shares his thoughts on leading and empowering Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Our senior leaders are restoring readiness across the U.S. Air Force, which has been a necessary and much-welcomed initiative.

With resource readiness trending to the positive, what about restoring personal readiness?  Have any of us really considered what personal attributes we will need to win any fight in any environment?  Have you ever asked yourself if you are truly prepared to forward deploy in the harshest of conditions against a major adversary who will contest your every move and challenge your will to win?

I assert that to win, squadron leaders must forge personal readiness through attributes of mental toughness, physical toughness and discipline. 

If you’re thinking you won’t likely forward deploy to harsh conditions or punishing environments, think again. Within the last 15 months, Airmen from my command and many others have been on the ground responding to crises in the unforgiving deserts of Iraq and Syria as well as the humid tropics of Florida and Puerto Rico, among many others.

Despite our successes in these missions, future success is not a given. We must be ready for even more punishing environments against even more determined adversaries.  So what can we do to be ready?

  • Mental toughness.  We can increase mental toughness by instilling attributes such as adaptability, perseverance and grit.  Overcoming shared adversity through rigorous, realistic and challenging training is one great way to increase mental toughness.  Additionally, allowing our Airmen the opportunity to fully fail while in a learning environment and then assisting with recovery and re-accomplishment of the failed task can substantially increase mental toughness.   
  • Physical toughness.  We can increase physical toughness by dedicating ourselves to the highest possible level of physical fitness and conditioning ourselves to our environment.  I believe the Air Force Fitness Test is a good overall tool to assess basic fitness, but we must also encourage our Airmen to go beyond the test and to make fitness a lifestyle. 

    Environmentally, no one likes to be cold, wet or hungry, but we cannot shy away from training and operating in punishing environments.  When we choose to train in austere conditions, we increase our environmental tolerance and we learn to trust the gear that works and discard the gear that doesn’t.
  • Discipline.  As Airmen, we strongly desire discipline and accountability.  We increase discipline by setting and upholding the highest standards even when it is easier to do otherwise.  Maximizing our use of checklists ensures a deliberate approach to mission planning and execution and ensures our Airmen are clearly focused and properly guided for the task at hand.  Holding ourselves and our Airmen accountable through intolerance of tardiness, carelessness and mediocrity also drives discipline in our force.

We are fortunate that our senior leaders are earnestly committed to reinvigorating squadrons and restoring readiness.  As squadron leaders, it’s our charge to forge personal readiness and ensure we have the requisite mental toughness, physical toughness and discipline to execute every mission to completion without needless complaint.  We will need these key attributes to ensure the beating heart of the Air Force performs with maximum strength and endurance no matter the challenge.