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Ralph, the dead rat

Col. Victor Beeler, 60th Mission Support Group commander, shares some thoughts on how all Airmen at Travis Air Force Base, California, can be proactive to issues in their work centers. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Victor Beeler, 60th Mission Support Group commander, shares some thoughts on how all Airmen at Travis Air Force Base, California, can be proactive to issues in their work centers. (U.S. Air Force photo)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Do you know Ralph? I’m sure you do. Let me explain.

You have arrived at your new duty assignment. As soon as you walk in the door, you see a huge dead rat lying in the middle of the floor. You are instantly fixated on it. As you stare at the rat, you notice that everyone is walking around stepping over it. No one seems to be paying any attention to this rodent corpse.

As you walk in, you move in to get a closer look. The stench of the rat is stifling, and you immediately cover your nose. As you stand there, you stop one of the Airmen walking by and ask, “Why is there a dead rat in the middle of the floor?” The Airman says, “Oh, you must be talking about Ralph; he’s been here as long as I’ve worked here, and I’ve been working here for years.”

As you gaze upon the dead rodent, you can’t believe that no one has disposed of Ralph. As shocking as the scene is, you proceed to your work section to start your day. You can’t seem to get the thought of Ralph out of your head. Even when you finish your duty day, you think about him when you get home. You ask yourself, ‘Why doesn’t someone do something about Ralph?’

The next day, you walk by Ralph again. You don’t spend as long staring or thinking about him.  A few days later, you don’t even notice him when you walk in the door. As the days pass, you grow used to the corpse. Ultimately, you fully accept Ralph.

I ask you, do you know Ralph? You do. Just substitute a hole in the wall, a stain in the carpet, weeds outside the building, trash in the parking lot or a hole in the roof for Ralph. In many of your facilities, you have multiple “Ralphs.” You notice these issues when you arrive, but after a period of time you accept them. I’m asking you to not accept these Ralphs. If you can, take care of the Ralph when you see it. If you can’t dispose of the Ralph, report it to your supervisor or facility manager and follow up to ensure that Ralph is disposed of properly.

While there are many Ralphs in terms of facilities, many of you have them in terms of your work processes. As soon as you start the process, you quickly realize there is a more efficient way to accomplish the task. Many of you have heard, “We’ve always done it this way,” or “If it isn’t broke, then don’t fix it.” While it may be a procedural improvement, you may have an idea or a way to incorporate technology to enhance or streamline the process or procedure. If you know of a way to improve a process or procedure, I challenge you to speak to your supervisor.

You have a responsibility to eliminate Ralph from our facilities, processes and procedures. I look forward to working with all of you to exterminate Ralph from Travis AFB.