Are you on the field or in the bleachers?

  • Published
  • By Maj. Andrew Slaughter
  • 341st Munitions Squadron Commander
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."  President Theodore Roosevelt, April 23, 1910.

President Roosevelt's speech does not glorify failure; it celebrates those who pour their heart and soul into every endeavor.  It celebrates those who take ownership of what they do because they have the courage to be accountable for their successes and their failures.  Also, it draws a clear line of distinction between the people who put themselves on the line or take calculated risks and those who criticize, mock and second-guess them from the safety of the bleachers.  It also acknowledges how perfection is an elusive goal.  Although we may plan, analyze, and prepare for all reasonable contingencies or unintended consequences, we won't always get it right--we are human after all.  In spite of this, we are charged to give our all and not let those setbacks define us. 

The character of "man in the arena" lauded by President Roosevelt a century ago is no less relevant to Wing One today.  Leaders are charged to seek out more efficient or effective ways to accomplish the mission and to adapt to evolving technologies or Air Force requirements.  Doing so prevents our organizations from becoming frozen in time or clinging to the past without comprehending the present.  This does not mean we forsake policies or processes gleaned over many decades, it means we must continually evaluate them for relevancy to today's operational environment and that requires active engagement from all echelons to provide feedback, refine tactics and when necessary, adapt to change, which is something that can only be done from inside the arena.

So where do you stand?  Are you in the arena?  Whether you are junior or senior in an organization, active duty or civilian, you make a difference to the wing's strategic deterrence mission.  As we have for many years, we are challenged with balancing mission requirements and providing quality of life for our people with finite resources.  There is no surplus of personnel or resources giving us the latitude to sit in the bleachers and watch.  We are either in the arena or we are on the outside to the detriment of those we leave behind.

If we are proactive, we are able to shape the future through effective planning, preparation, and execution.  We are united by a common purpose and to that end we communicate, collaborate, and when necessary, we compromise because we are a team; our success depends on that.  President Roosevelt spoke of daring greatly for a worthy cause--that is what we do in Wing One every day!