New hires are AFSO-21 assets

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Barry Cargle
  • 344th Air Refueling Squadron commander
With today's shrinking budgets and streamlining of missions, most Air Force organizations overlook a powerful asset with regard to Air Force Smart Operations in the 21st Century. 

That asset is the friendly new guy or gal, known as the FNG. I have even found myself viewing a new Airman as contributing little to the team. 

Sometimes we discredit their ability to positively affect the organization and just focus on when they can deploy. In reality, they can be an excellent weapon against outdated processes. They can challenge those who defend these processes with, "That's the way it's always been done." They are also a fresh source of ideas. They can easily "think outside the box," since they have never seen the box. 

As I meet new Airmen in my squadron, I challenge them to take the role of teammates who maintain critical eyes as they in-process into work centers. This gives sections a pure self-inspection as trainers and trainees work through continuity books and daily tasks. When questions about procedures or concerns about items in the books cannot be answered to our newest teammate, we should assume a unit compliance inspector might have the same questions. Then, we address the issue and maintain an atmosphere of improvement from the Airman's first day on the job. 

The best part about the FNG is that he or she approaches the problem with little or no knowledge of the job. They may have a solution squadron members steeped in the process would never consider. 

For example, we could leverage a new Airman's pre-Air Force experiences, like jobs they had during high school or college, to reduce the time to complete office tasks. 

The benefits of new teammates' critical eyes do not end at the procedural level. They also have the freshest look at the physical use of resources in the squadron. For example, a new squadron member observed there was no shredder in a work center that routinely needed one. As a matter of fact, the shredder was on the opposite end of the building. The answer of, "We never had a shredder in here," was pushed to flight leadership. Once identified, we moved resources around to properly equip the office. It may not sound like much, but in a fiscal- and manning-constrained Air Force, in which we all live, extra steps cannot be tolerated. 

Now, as we begin to fully embrace FNGs, we have to realize their powers are limited to a finite time. I have found that once new teammates have been in the organization for about 180 days, they begin to lose their critical eyes. The procedures in the office are business as usual and become as common to them as the paint on the wall. 

This is not a slight on our new teammates but a challenge to us all. I suggest we treat our newest teammates as the true AFSO-21 weapon systems they are. 

By leveraging these Airmen and our seasoned squadron mates, we can confidently push toward inspections. More importantly, we can enjoy efficient offices and organizations that keep us ready to engage in tomorrow's fight with the extremely limited resources we have.