Getting ‘Back to Basics’

  • Published
  • By Maj. Jeff Wyss
  • 22nd Director of Staff deputy commander
"Back to Basics," is repeated time and again as the Air Force, its leadership and every Airman strives to wrap their arms back around things that became less important in our drive to win the Global War on Terror and to do so with fewer and fewer Airmen.

But have you really thought about how to do this? To me, taking care of the "basics" can be put in layman's terms by another common phrase: "attention to detail."

Attention to detail is something we've heard for years on end. Personally, I've heard it in one form or another from my parents, every football coach I've had from the 4th grade through high school, many leaders in Cub Scouts, Webelos, Boy Scouts, my ROTC cadre and my Emergency Action instructors from Vandenburg to Grand Forks to Offutt AFB. We always start hearing it when it's time for a wing's Operational Readiness Inspection, when "attention to detail" became the mantra.

But what is it, really? Is it knowing your job inside and out? Is it crossing the "T's" and dotting the "I's?" Or is it caring enough about your profession to treat it as more than just a 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. job or a means to an education? Or is it going that extra inch or taking the extra five minutes to ensure that everything is done as well as it can be? With our national responsibilities, it's all this and more and it should be re-instilled in everything we do, every day.

In 2006 some nuclear fuses were mislabeled and mistakenly shipped to Taiwan. They were all recovered several months later. "What's the big deal?" You might think, they were just fuses after all. The agency that bungled this handles items of even greater importance to the nuclear arsenal on a daily basis. If they cannot execute with perfect attention to detail, then what example does that set for the rest of the Air Force?

It was the failure to pay attention and double check serial numbers that led to the accidental movement of nuclear weapons from Minot to Barksdale AFB. A number of personnel lost their jobs, credibility and most likely their careers as a result.

Now, the effort continues in earnest to recapture that edge of attention to detail that epitomized the Strategic Air Command mentality.

When each and every Airman remembers to focus on attention to detail in every aspect, every day, then we're upholding the Air Force Core Value of "Excellence in all we do." Whether it pertains to the care and wear of our uniform to spell-checking our emails; to following our demand-response checklist processing emergency action messages or reviewing our technical data while troubleshooting that annoying electrical fault in the avionics suite. Doing this, we'll be ready for any no-notice inspection and each and every deployment that we are asked to fulfill.

The bond that unites us as Airmen is not only the uniform or career badge, but these words to the Oath of Enlistment that we've all taken, in one form or another. "Support and defend the constitution against all enemies," combined with the Air Force Core Values mandates that each and every one of us pays greater attention to detail, period. Every day that we put on the uniform and bring "excellence" to our work: that attention to detail, with "integrity": the right thing, even when nobody's looking, we're fulfilling our oath to "support and defend."

Thank you for taking that oath and for serving our country. Thank you for putting your life on the line to defend our freedom and the freedom of my young children. I am thankful that the good Lord has given me the chance to serve alongside the chosen few, the best Airmen in the world.