Embrace the change

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Timothy Dodge
  • 341st Civil Engineer Squadron commander
We've all heard the sayings "change is inevitable" and "change is here to stay." Change is part of our everyday lives. Change is simply a fact of life. As Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclites proclaimed around 500 BC, "Nothing endures but change." The current change we are experiencing is nothing new. And although one cannot stop change from happening, we all can control how we react to it and how we deal with it.

Change surrounds us. You hear about change as the main theme in presidential election campaigns. You hear about change affecting our climate and environment. You hear about change in corporate culture and our national economy. And you hear about change in our Air Force. Current change in the Air Force centers focuses on how we need to transform our operations and organizational structure so we can fight the Global War on Terror, and simultaneously apply resources saved to recapitalize and modernize our Air Force.

Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States, was accurate when he said during the time of World War I, "If you want to make enemies, try to change something." President Wilson had a rather accurate view concerning people's resistance to change. I'm guessing you won't find too many folks in the Air Force these days who embrace the manpower cuts or the funding reductions for the many affected facets of our mission. I'll be one of the first in line to talk about the evils of doing more with less, of the significant reductions in our contract dollars, having limited available manpower with few alternatives, being limited in our ability to satisfy our customers, among others.

Can we afford to be complacent and ignore the change around us? An often referenced source from the mid-1990's Air Force Total Quality Management movement, TQM founder W. Edward Deming said, "It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory." TQM enveloped corporate America as well as governmental organizations, to include the Air Force, then as Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma has the past few years. As our resources decrease we should be looking for ways to do less. We should ask ourselves the question, what should we no longer do? What processes are obsolete, have little value added or can be accomplished differently without transferring workload to the customer and work to eliminate or optimize those processes?

Closer to home, you will find significant change here at Malmstrom and throughout the Air Force in the coming months. All have already experienced some dissatisfaction and discomfort with the consolidation of unit orderly rooms and the continued dominance of Airmen receiving centralized personnel support through the "Personnel Services Delivery Transformation" via the contact center at Randolph Air Force Base and the Web. We will further experience a merger of the Mission Support Squadron with the Services Squadron to create the new Forces Support Squadron. This synergy is intended to create an organization that will streamline processes, increase efficiencies, maximize customer service and cut costs associated with maintaining two separate organizations. These embody some of the key concepts in the Air Force's current drive toward transformation.

In addition, the Logistics Readiness Squadron will join with the Maintenance Group to create a new Material Group in the coming months. This alignment will consolidate traditional logistics functions under a single logistics leader in the wing. There are also plans to regionalize base contracting services and eventually merge the Contracting and Comptroller Squadrons. Financial Services are centralized at Ellsworth AFB, [S.D.], while moving claims previously performed by base legal offices are performed in Ohio. Your local base offices provide limited liaison services.

Furthermore, we are transforming the Civil Engineer Squadron to better align with today's limited resource environment and focus available resources on priority work while appropriately managing risk. Security Forces personnel are deploying in larger numbers as are Civil Engineers and Logistics Readiness personnel further stressing the available workforce on base. The Medical Group is offering primary care managers off base to ease the workload with our limited medical resources. And unique to Malmstrom, we're in the process of closing the 564th Missile Squadron reducing our base by more than 500 personnel. Although these are several of the ongoing transformation initiatives occurring in the Air Force now, expect to see more change in the future. All this forces us to reflect on the changes happening around us.

Finally, in recent history (2003), Chief of Staff of the U. S. Army, Gen. Eric Shinseki, remarked, "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less." There is a purpose for this change. You may not like it or how it is being accomplished, but as previously said, it is a fact of life. You can choose to make change a positive force. You can make change work for you and your organization. You have to grab it by the proverbial horns and push change the direction that will be most beneficial. Change is something we must live with and learn to embrace or we risk becoming irrelevant.

So, let's embrace the change and drive on.