Taking ownership

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – I was out for a run with my 5-year-old recently, who was on his bike, when he stopped to pick up a discarded fast food bag.  He asked me to carry it until we could find a trash can, and I obliged, of course.  As we continued our run/ride, he explained that he wanted to make sure the people on Travis Air Force Base, California, had a nice place to live and work.

He heard me provide that as an explanation to countless whys over the years.  It made me chuckle to hear him recite it back to me, but more than that, it made me proud. I was so proud that my little guy was starting to understand what it means to take ownership of the base and, in conjunction (even if he doesn’t know it yet), the Air Force. 

I felt a similar sense of pride later that day when I presented the “Rock of the Week” Award to young Airman Medina in the military personnel section. With just one stripe on her sleeve, she’s taking charge. She requested to assume safety rep duties when her supervisor deploys, was elected Dorm Council vice president, volunteers for Airmen Against Drunk Driving and is an active physical training leader in the squadron. She’s epitomizing ownership of the place she works and lives—of her Air Force. She makes me so proud.

That same week, I participated in Travis’ inaugural Community Partnership Forum which brought together local government and business leaders with Air Force experts from Travis and higher headquarters alike. I listened to the results of two days of intense collaboration aimed at tackling serious challenges in our collective futures.  Plans were set in motion and the appropriate agencies were taking action.  As I scanned the familiar faces of community leaders in the room, I was struck by the realization that support for this base from the surrounding area is so much more than partnership—it’s ownership. Each of us Airmen can really be proud to call this place home because the government and business leaders in Solano County exemplify ownership of their community and of their Air Force.

This idea of psychological ownership—a personal sense of possessiveness over our organization—is a 60th Air Mobility Wing priority for good reason.  Studies show that higher levels of ownership are correlated to increased productivity, morale and overall success of an organization. If that’s true, then the future of the Air Force depends largely on the degree to which its employees and stakeholders are engaged.  A disengaged population will walk by trash on the sidewalk, contribute the bare minimum to collect their paycheck and will not seek out collaborative opportunities with others.

Please understand that the consequences of disengagement, for us, is much more severe than just litter across the installation. It is an inevitable reduction in readiness and lethality. Engendering and continually cultivating a sense of ownership within our organization is a critical component to maximizing our ability to maintain the leading edge. 

From my vantage point, the Air Force has a bright future and Travis AFB is a shining example of that.  The sky is the limit for us with active community partners, incredible young Airmen and even children in our community all invested in our Air Force.