• Published
  • By Col. Charles Arnold
  • 21st Mission Support Group commander
I spent this past Easter weekend at the Big South Volleyball Tournament in Atlanta, watching my 16-year-old daughter's club volleyball team play. Unfortunately, they struggled during the tournament, finishing in the bottom half of the teams in their division and age group. While my daughter constantly reminds me that I'm not a coach, and in particular not her coach, it didn't take an expert to figure out why the team struggled.

During the tournament the six players on the court failed to function as a team. Instead they performed as separate entities without any cohesion at all. Teamwork and communication were lacking, and as a result, no one performed their roles well. In some cases, a lack of communication resulted in two girls going for the same ball, which never turns out well, and in other cases, no one went for the ball, which resulted in a ball landing untouched while two or three girls stood staring at each other.

As the tournament rolled on and the losses piled up, player roles and responsibilities became even more blurred as girls started to do things they didn't normally do, leading to on-court chaos. Worse yet, the girls started to accept losing and they stopped picking each other up after mistakes. Morale was low, performance dipped even further, and the end result was a disappointed team of 16-year-old girls (never a pretty sight), a frustrated coach, a bunch of confused and weary parents and a long plane ride home filled with wouldas, shouldas and couldas.

So why am I sharing this, other than the fact that I really like to talk about girls' volleyball? It is simple really: as we enter this era of sequestration, budgetary challenges, and potential civilian furloughs, we are facing a period where teamwork and communication are more important than ever.

In order to mitigate the potential mission impact of budgetary cuts and lost man-hours, all of us, active duty, DoD civilian, contractor, Guard and Reserve, must pull together as a team and communicate. We must understand each other's roles and responsibilities, fill in the growing gaps, and smooth over the seams wherever possible. We must make the extra effort to communicate, and perhaps most importantly, we must let others know when we need help. Thinking back to the volleyball tournament, we can't all go for the ball at the same time, and we certainly can't stand around staring at each other as the ball hits the floor untouched. When the ball hits the floor the mission fails, and we have failed as a team.

This need for teamwork and communication goes well beyond the mission. We must also look out and care for each other, even if that means stepping out of one's comfort zone. Those who are not directly impacted by potential furloughs must understand that many of our civilian co-workers will be facing a substantial pay cut that in many cases goes beyond simply needing to tighten their belts a bit. For many, lost salary due to an extended furlough could mean the difference between making a mortgage payment or helping a son or daughter with college tuition. Many of our civilian teammates will be faced with tough personal and financial decisions, and we can't lose sight of their predicament.

Last week I had the pleasure of addressing members of Team Peterson's Key Spouse Program. I challenged them to look beyond their traditional role of helping our Airmen and their families, and to find ways to also assist our civilian teammates and their families should they be impacted by furlough. I'm a huge fan of our key spouses, and I know with complete certainty that they will rise to this challenge. So to the rest of you I ask, can you rise to this challenge as well? What can you do to be a good teammate? What role can you play in ensuring we communicate and move forward as a cohesive team?

I genuinely believe that we are entering one of the most difficult periods in our Air Force history, and I don't see any quick fixes on the horizon. However, I am the eternal optimist, and I know we can beat the challenges of sequestration and come out a stronger, more resilient Air Force, Department of Defense, and nation in the end. However, we can only win this battle by working together as a team.