What Kind of Gas Are You Producing?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Keith Cunningham
  • 341st Medical Support Squadron commander
No, this is not an article on the effects of methane gas on the ozone layer and its contribution to global warming. It is, rather, a view on the importance of mentorship in sustaining our Air Force.

Former Air Combat Command Commander, Gen. Hal M. Hornburg once said, "Airmen are the gas that makes the Air Force go -- not our technology, airplanes or equipment.
Without them, we might as well cut up all the expensive assets on the ramp and make them into razor blades."

Everyone knows the different grades of gasoline; there is regular, mid-grade and premium. High performance engines need the higher octane that premium gas provides in order to operate at peak efficiency. If they are not fueled with it, they will not perform any better than four-cylinder engines commonly found in vehicles throughout the world.

The Air Force is a high performance engine -- finely tuned and equipped with the most up to date options, and part of a race car that has trounced every competitor that has challenged it for the past 62 years. From relatively short drag races to grueling 24-hour LeMans-type events, the Air Force powerhouse has proven itself a champion over and over again. While excellent in design and with an impeccable track record. But like all machines, however, it has needed service and attention.

It is no secret that over the last two to three years our mighty engine has been the
subject of several recalls, and Air Force "master mechanics" have had to perform a major overhaul on it. Critical engine parts that were once state-of-the-art, either broke or wore out and had to be either reconditioned or replaced.

The engine design was not the fault, as it is the envy of engine manufacturers throughout the world. What caused the engine to stall was not adhering to the maintenance schedule that had served it so well for many, many years. Thankfully, pit crews noticed the "service engine soon" light dimly displaying on the dashboard in the nick of time, and took action to repair the engine before it was blown and had to be totally rebuilt.

With repairs done, worn components replaced, the engine tuned to specs and road tests complete, our mechanics and engineers are sure that the engine is once again ready for the big race. As important as the engine repair was, there is nothing more critical to the engine's performance than the final step -- gassing it up. Nothing but the best, highest grade premium gas should be used to fill the tank, and for this gas we rely on only the highest quality refineries.

Obviously, refineries and the "gas" they produce are crucial to the success the USAF engine-powered race car.

Everyone is a mentor, and mentors are, in a sense, the refineries that are ever so
critical in the illustration above. As mentors, we have the duty and responsibility of spending the extra time and effort to give our troops the tools they need to be successful, productive members of our great Air Force, in essence, turn them into premium gas.

Mentors (refineries) have options in the process of making "gas." These options in include:

a) no action at all--the crude oil they receive, stays crude oil as long as it is in the inventory, with no useful purpose to the high performance engine

b) make regular or mid-grade gas which will allow the engine to run, but never at its full potential or at peak performance, or

c) spend a little more time, a little more effort and invest a little more on resources to mass produce premium gas that will ensure the engine is in tip top shape and part of the winning team in all future races.

So, as we reflect on yet another year that is quickly coming to a close, looking at our successes and areas where we could perform better, I ask the question, "Mentor, what kind of gas are you producing?"