Priority one: Readiness

  • Published
  • By Col. Kenneth Thad Bibb, Jr.
  • 86th Airlift Wing Vice Commander
Baseball great Yogi Berra once said: "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going because you might not get there." Where is our wing going? Do you know?

Brig. Gen. C.K. Hyde and wing senior leaders recently refined our wing's priorities to better align with our mission and vision during our strategic planning process. Our wing's mission statement challenges us to: Provide combat airlift and operate the Air Force's premier installation to enable and assure strategic capabilities. And our vision remains clear: Capable, credible, responsive Airmen...operationally ready ... honored to serve!

The wing commander named five priorities to support our mission statement and vision, the first of which is "Maintain readiness to accomplish our mission safely and effectively anytime, anywhere." The readiness of our Airmen and our installation is crucial to winning the fight and shaping the future.

Our nation depends on Ramstein readiness. Our location and skill sets put us at the pinnacle of today's fight and potential conflicts and contingencies. Daily, we operate missions across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East while maintaining a key platform for a host of other EUCOM, AFRICOM, and CENTCOM missions. We have to be not only ready to build partnerships in peacetime through joint training and humanitarian operations, but also ready for short notice wartime taskings.

To ensure we, as a wing, meet this priority, objectives have been set for Airmen at all levels to strive for: 1) Ensure individual readiness; 2) Ensure compliant and mission-ready units; and 3) Ensure effective mission integration.

Ensure individual readiness
A few years ago, as a new captain, I couldn't believe it when I heard the general on stage say "put yourself first". I was astounded. Was he crazy? Had he not heard of Service Before Self or our Warrior Ethos? Did he not understand our Wingman concept?

But then he explained he was talking about YOU - an acronym for readiness - Yourself, Others, Unit. He went on to explain that as Airmen, we are useless to the team unless we are individually ready. We can only fulfill our commitment to support our fellow Airmen if we can first carry our own weight. An Airman can only be ready to lead if his own readiness is squared away.

Yes, individual readiness includes training in our core competencies, medical and physical fitness, and preparing ourselves to be resilient in the face of adversity. Individual readiness is more than being able to get through the mobility line - we have to do more than meet the minimum standard. Airmen are our most valued resource. With an ever smaller force, we must seek out opportunities to develop professionally. We must maximize our limited training opportunities, making the most of every exercise and every dollar.

Finally, the most important aspect of readiness may be in our attitude. Have we internalized a Warrior ethos? Is our integrity unwavering? Do we emit a contagious can-do spirit that conflict requires? Only with individually ready Airmen can we build compliant and mission-ready units.

Ensure compliant and mission-ready units
If the family is the basic unit of society, then the squadron is the basic warfighting unit of the Air Force. The squadron is where we integrate the skills of our Airmen to build effective teams, providing the building blocks for our groups and wings.

Having well-trained, ready Airmen does not guarantee well-trained, ready squadrons. In the last decades many of our Airmen have deployed individually to serve with distinction in expeditionary units. This capability will remain important, but we must also reenergize our ability to deploy and operate at the squadron, group, and wing level. Unit war fighting skills must be an integral part of our unit training.

For compliance, USAFE is leading the Air Force in a transition from emphasis on external inspections to a culture of continuous compliance, with wing commanders empowered to inspect and certify the readiness of their units. Wing commanders will look at how their units manage resources, lead people, improve the unit and execute the mission, with the MAJCOM inspectors validating wings have the proper compliance and control measures in place.

What internal controls does your unit have in place to ensure compliance? How good are our processes? As personnel changed over this summer, did anything fall through the cracks, or did you have the processes in place to ensure success?

Ensure effective mission integration
Basketball legend Michael Jordan said, "Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships." I have never seen a base where teamwork and mission integration are more important. We have many teammates including Air Force, joint, US government, host nation, and international partners. Integrating our mission with these partners is essential to completing the second half of our mission statement: operate the Air Force's premier installation to enable and assure strategic capabilities. Each of these partners brings different skills, knowledge, and experience to the fight.

Our base is a critical war fighting platform, and we can't afford long start up times as we execute missions in support of combatant commanders. Communication and planning are key, but only through dedicated exercises and training can we ensure integration in a constantly changing environment.

As Airmen, we have a proud heritage. Those that have gone before us have, through their preparations and readiness, with valor and courage, preserved our nation for future generations. Our legacy begins with our readiness for the fight.

Our full-scale ORE in September, one of 38 exercises this year, will be our next opportunity to train and test ourselves against all three objectives.

As each objective is met, we know we serve our nation with our best capabilities. Furthermore, we serve each other by upholding the standards which confirm that the Airmen we stand next to are capable, credible and responsive as well as operationally ready to execute the mission. Finally, we serve the mission of the 86th Airlift Wing by safeguarding our priority to maintain readiness to accomplish our mission safely and effectively anytime, anywhere. Are you ready?

Editor's Note: This is No. 1 of 5 articles of a series highlighting the priorities of the 86th Airlift Wing