Keeping it R.E.A.L. through challenging times.

  • Published
  • By Command Chief Master Sgt. Margarita Overton
  • 36th Wing Command Chief
Chicken Little was in the woods one day when an acorn fell on her head. It scared her so much she trembled all over. She shook so hard, half her feathers fell out. "Help, Help! The sky is falling! I have to go tell the king!"

We know how the story goes, Chicken Little frantically proclaimed to anyone who would listen, "Oh, help! The sky is falling!" Soon she had Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, Turkey, Lurkey jumping on the band wagon singing the same tune. They let down their defenses to spread a message of fear only to then be lured into the gloomy doom of Foxy Loxy's den.

I'm reminded of the story of Chicken Little so often now as I see the words "challenging, difficult times," in practically every headline. While these well meaning words are meant to manage expectations of the future budgetary picture, these same words can deter us from our overall mission and potentially lead us down the road of fear, uncertainty and doubt. One can appreciate the "keep it real" straight talk but I encourage you to keep it R.E.A.L. even in the face of trying, difficult times.

Take the first step with "R"-- remembering our history and where we came from as an Air Force.

Since its inception, the AF has always faced challenges. History shows sharp fluctuations in personnel and resources through various wars and conflicts. Steep demobilization occurred after World War I, and in the 20 year period between the two world wars, our air branch was stagnated while our leaders tried to rectify reorganization, appropriations and inter-service rivalries to establish the AF as a separate branch of service.
Expansion occurred when the Army Air Force was created and by the final year of World War II, the quantity and quality of AAF aircraft and Airmen dominated the skies over both Germany and Japan. After air power made it possible for the Allies to claim total victory over the Axis power, demobilization occurred again. This trend of ramp-up/ramp-down has occurred for all of the services throughout our Nation's history, but airpower has continued to prevail through the Cold War, Dessert Storm and Dessert Shield, the Global War on Terrorism, to today as we conduct operations in multiple theaters.

Remember, our proud heritage and legacy remains - the USAF is the most respected and powerful air, space and cyberspace force in the entire world.
Our next step is "E"-- encouraging our Airmen and ourselves.

To encourage means to inspire with hope, courage or confidence. We can do this regardless of whether we are in a leadership position or not. Positive attitudes are contagious. Charles R. Swindoll, a wise theologian stated, "The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it."

When things are uncertain, or things look bad, we can always find a bright spot somewhere. Earlier this year my son called me complaining his car broke down and he had to use $500 of the $750 he had saved up to get it fixed. There were two bright spots in this situation. First, I commended him for having had that much money in savings and second, I noted that at least he's able to get his car fixed in a timely manner and not hinder his ability to get to work. He could either focus on what he had supposedly lost or look at what he gained. In the end focusing on our gains gives us the motivation to keep pressing forward.

Pointing out the bright spots is a way to spread encouragement to those around us and is also linked to the next step which is "A"--act within our circle of influence.

This means being proactive, and according to author Stephen Covey, is one of seven habits of highly effective people. Too many times people try to focus on things they can't do anything about. Trying to solve world hunger is out of our control, but participating in the Feed the Homeless project in our community is in our control. Our Nation's debt problem is definitely out of our control, but we can impact our circle of influence by looking for efficiencies within our work center, by conducting risk analysis on the things we can or cannot support, and by keeping "eyes-on" personnel to notice any behavior changes and step in if you're concerned.

Lastly, we can "L"--lean forward and keep moving, knowing that tough times won't last forever.

We can chose to remain frozen in the face of challenges or see each challenge as an opportunity to overcome. We do not know what changes the future will bring. Some say, certain benefits like medical care or tuition assistance will be diminished. Lean forward by working now to complete your education. Lean forward by ensuring you are using your finances wisely and saving for the future. Lean forward by perfecting your skill. Lean forward by being the best Airman you can be.

I am convinced our nation's leaders have confidence in us as Airmen - that we are the best in the world, that we step up to meet any challenge, that we overcome any obstacle and that we defeat the enemy. Our nation knows that we can continue to do so as long as we are given adequate resources.

When Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donnelly visited us and told our Airmen "senior leadership has your back." I walked away with the assurance that leadership knows we have their backs when it comes to executing airpower for the safety of our nation and we should know they have our backs in ensuring we stay organized, trained and equipped to do so.

So let's continue to keep it R.E.A.L, despite what we may hear about "challenging times" ahead.

To visit Chief Overton's biography click here