I had the privilege of hearing the new Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Mark Welsh, address the Air Force Association Conference. He outlined the challenges the Air Force will face, which I realized, are the same challenges facing private industry, education, consultants, and every other entity struggling to do more with less.
He recounted a situation—one that had never occurred before—that had taken place in Africa, one of the newer commands.
A leopard had wandered on to the runway to sun himself. Well, there are rules against that sort of thing, so the three young airman on duty decided to walk three-abreast to confront the cat.
A few steps into the mission, they decided they might want to drive to the cat in a fire truck. They parked the truck near the cat and then discussed next steps. In the meantime, the leopard decided the shade of the truck looked pretty good, so he walked over and lay down under it.
Clearly, this entire situation had abandoned protocol, but the airmen did not desist. One took a pole from the truck and attempted to poke the cat. What do cats do when poked with a stick? First, they roll on their backs and play. Then they lose patience.
Now the three faced a very angry kitty, so they determined the best course of action would be a tranquilizer. They called the hospital and ordered up a shot. A medic delivered it, but now they lacked a volunteer to crawl under the truck to inject the cat, since no gun or dart could be found for administering it. Shortly after a sergeant showed up, and the leopard decided to leave (rank has its privileges).
As Gen. Welsh pointed out, the Air Force has exceptional people, but that day common sense took a vacation, and we can’t afford to let common sense do that. We will face unanticipated problems for which we have not been trained. We will address them only when we have recruited the best, educated and trained them, and given them best technology we can afford.
He noted that you don’t need the best technology available, just technology that is better than the other guy’s. He also pointed out that in the future, common sense will play as big a role as education and training in our success. We can’t possibly know what problems and opportunities will present themselves, but we can make sure we have the best possible people to tackle both.
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