What we do matters

  • Published
  • By Col. Michael Fortney
  • 341st Space Wing commander
Professionals strive for perfection. When we think of the "pros" we often think of the greats - Kobe, Tiger, LeBron ... or if you're a little older, MJ, Magic and Gretsky. These professionals are highly trained in what they do and they raised the standards of their games to levels others marvel at.

While we respect these sports legends, when you get down to it - despite the fanfare, they play a game. If these sports legends never took the court, strapped on skates, or stepped up to a tee-box, the world as we know it would still exist - the opening bell at Wall Street would ring, our skies would be no less safe, and moms and dads would drop their kids off at school just like they did the day before. Life in our country would go on.

The same cannot be said for you. When you take the court, it matters.

While we have some things in common with these sports figures - highly trained and incredibly high standards - if we missile pros fail to step up to the plate and deliver every day, bad things will happen. We do what we do the best we can because what we do matters. It matters to our fellow Airmen, to our leaders and, most importantly, to our Nation.

In the wake of the resignations of our Chief of Staff and Air Force Secretary and the issues with the Air Force's management of its nuclear arsenal, there has been a great deal of talk about standards and accountability, much of it coming from your leadership here at Malmstrom.

Yes, we've been talking a great deal lately about a "standard of perfection" and "accountability" and I've heard that this re-focusing on standards and accountability is making some feel uneasy. For the vast majority of the pros here at Malmstrom, you should not feel uneasy; and here's why.

First, to be accurate, our standards never changed - in our business, for as long as I remember when it came to conducting maintenance on-site, work in the weapons storage area, conducting operations in the capsule, security, coding, targeting or PRP, our standard has always been one of perfection. And we've always had the tools to make sure we stay perfect in those areas - Technical Orders, Instructions, local checklists and, of course, the never-ending battery of tests, assessments and higher headquarters inspections. So my message to the lead "horses" at this wing who have always given their best - who have studied, mastered, and followed their procedures; you have nothing to be nervous about - you just keep pulling hard and continue to do your best.

That said, regardless of how great this wing is (and it is a great wing), we all know there are a few people out there who are not pulling as hard as the others, who don't try hard to master their important duties, who cut corners, who go a little too fast, who are content to just get by, while the horses around them do the heavy pulling. To this small group, my message is equally clear - stop.

Every member of our team has to be pulling hard every day and you know why. First, the weapons in our charge are the most extreme ever created by man and we operate, maintain, secure and support them in one of the most extreme environments of any weapon system in our Air Force. We can't afford to make mistakes; the consequences are way too high. Second, you owe your "A-game" to the other members of our team. Yes, the mission is vital. Yes, the standards are extremely high. But when one member of this team cuts corners, doesn't work to master their weapon system or simply doesn't do their best, the rest of the team is jeopardized just as the mission is. Our extreme mission will only succeed if every member of our team pulls hard every day.

And what about accountability? What is all the talk about holding people accountable? Simply stated, the 90 percent of the team who "get it" will not tolerate those around us who don't. My expectations in this area are equally simple. Just like the President and Secretary of Defense hold our most senior leaders accountable, my boss holds me accountable. Likewise, I hold each of you accountable. If you are still wondering what I'm holding you accountable for, re-read the last few paragraphs. Again, for the vast majority of Airmen on this base (and by Airmen, I mean all of us), don't be stressed by this. I simply want each and every one of you to do your best every day - to master your duties, to do them by-the-book and pull hard every day. My final charge relating to accountability is this: not only do I expect each of you to commit to doing it right, but I expect each of you to hold each other accountable as well. When you see someone outside the lines, I expect you to act. Again, hold each other accountable.

In closing, I don't want you to misinterpret what I said above. I meant what I said about the quality of the Airmen at Malmstrom AFB - nobody does it better and the stables here are full of thoroughbreds. But unlike the sports legends I spoke of earlier, who could have a bad day and the banks and schools still open, when any member of this team has a bad day, the team suffers, the USAF suffers and the Nation suffers. I say again ... what you do matters.

I look forward to pulling hard right along side you as we take on this vital mission together.