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Search for Initiative and Ownership

Lt. Col. Andrew Katz, 47th Operation Support Squadron commander, talks about gaining a new focus, taking initiative, and how innovation can be simple. In his squadron, he says, “If you touch it, you own it,” and he encourages his people take ownership of problems in their work centers and provide ground-breaking solutions. (Courtesy photo)

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas—When Gen. David Goldfein became Chief of Staff of the Air Force in mid-2016, he called squadrons the “beating heart” of the service and promised his first year as chief would focus on revitalizing the squadron, as the core-fighting unit of the Air Force.

Now, with this new focus, it’s critical for one to dig deeper to discover the root of this shift in mindset— generating initiative and ownership.  

Many times, I see our Airmen struggle with managing old processes with ideas of their own, which stifles their ability to explore new methods for addressing a problem. However, how can one challenge old processes with new ideas, when he or she builds a self-contained wall? Puzzling, right? Initiative and ownership are mindsets fueled by a desire to break down barriers.

Initiative 

Start with taking initiative. Initiative is an introductory step; energy or aptitude displayed in the initiation of action. This is exactly what our strategic leaders have exhorted and what our Air Force needs today.  We need our Airmen to take that step to fix, improve, and think outside of the box to make things more efficient. As you read this, I know you’re thinking of all those times you’ve said, “I wish there was a way to make this, (you fill in the blank), better.” Well, this is the time! Our leaders are not only asking us to explore our creative thought processes, but are giving us the tools to fulfill these ideas. 

Ownership

As you take initiative to improve things, ownership in that process becomes paramount. Our Air Force needs YOU. It’s that simple.  I often tell my Airmen, “If you touch it…you own it!”

Here at Laughlin, our mission is three fold: train, deploy, and develop. Our strategic leaders have challenged us to find ways to improve our processes by seeking ways to innovate. I accept that challenge and invite you to begin with taking initiative and owning what you know to be right and true!

The Four Pillars

We can begin our quest for initiative and ownership with my four simple pillars:

1. Do the absolute best you can within your capabilities and have a positive attitude. 

2. Find ways to improve as a professional. No matter what you’re doing, whether that’s taking a development course, professional military education course, or college course, keep improving.  The more knowledge you acquire, the better the Air Force becomes.

3. Get involved. You can make a big difference in people’s lives simply by joining organizations like your squadron’s booster club, or one of the on-base groups. Anything helps.  

4. Take care of each other. I’ve found that the best way to lead someone is by example. Be a great role model for others to follow…and hold your subordinates to the same standards. Do the simple things first and the rest will take care of itself, but remember…be a good example! 

A Better Tomorrow  

Now you may say to yourself, “This commander is saying nothing new…nothing that I don’t already know.” And you’re right! I’m not saying anything new or cosmic. It’s really that simple. In today’s Air Force, we’re expected to go above and beyond the call of duty and do an incredible job.  

So I’m certain that if YOU take initiative and ownership of everything that comes your way, nothing will be too big or too small for you to handle. Keeping this simple mantra will take us to the next level, and in return, make the Air Force the beacon of hope for all to follow!    

Do you accept the challenge?