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Fix what you can touch

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. James Hackbarth
  • 386th Expeditionary Operations Group
"I'm just at The Rock for four months, six months or 1 year"--fill in the length of your deployment. "I'm a transient. So, what can I fix? What can I do to make a difference?"

Several years ago, I was stationed at Pope Air Force Base working on the 43rd Operations Group staff. In our conference room, we had a table and it was UGLY. It was probably pretty nice when it was first purchased, but now it just brought the room down. It was made out of wood, but the surface was all scratched, the finish was cloudy, and it looked like it needed to be sent to DRMO.

One week, our group commander had finally had enough. Alone, he came into the office on Saturday with some rags and a fresh bottle of Pledge. He put in a few hours of elbow grease and effort on that nasty, old conference table. It was where he met with his commanders, chiefs, and other senior leadership...and he wanted it to look right.
The next week, when we first got together around that table, it was shiny, clean, the scratches were gone and the entire atmosphere of the room had changed. The table brightened the room. When the squadron commanders and staff started asking who had done this, the group commander said, "I did" and offered this lesson:

"Fix What You Can Touch"

Even though he was an O-6, he saw a problem that needed to be addressed and he had the means to do something about it. Like him, we should take the initiative to fix the problems we see and can do something about.

Now, The Rock is in good shape. We have high levels of effectiveness, motivated Airmen, and we're getting the mission accomplished for the Combatant Commander and the CFACC. But there are always things we can do better. There are always problems to fix.

This is where we, the residents of The Rock come in. We're all transients--four, six or 12 months--but we can all fix the problems that confront us.

If you fix the most complex problem facing the base, that's great. However, you don't need to fix the cosmic problems, the ones that keep your commanders (all the way up to the CFACC) awake at night. Together as a team we'll keep chipping away at those problems. But for most of us, based on our rank, position, and experience level, there are other problems we're able to fix.

It may be an improved process for managing our resources. It may be better scheduling of personnel. Perhaps there's a self-help project in our dorms or office spaces that we can take the initiative to complete. The fix may simply be cleaning up our workspaces, our rooms, or that piece of trash on the ground.

We're all transients, but we all have four, six or 12 months to fix what we can touch.