Voices heard at Caring for People forum

  • Published
  • By Al Strait
  • Plans and Programs director
Last year I had the opportunity to attend the "Air Force Caring for People" forum, and it was a privilege to attend again this year. From last year's forum, the Air Force selected 10 initiatives to focus on for 2012. From these 10 initiatives, eight have been implemented while the other two are in the final stages of implementation. The process works.

This year the Air Force took on the challenge of reviewing 43 topics from across the Air Force. These 43 topics were broken down into four categories; military support, family support, Guard and Reserve, and community support issues. There was also a forum for youth teens. As in past years, each forum panel reviewed the various topics and came up with 12 final topics which will be briefed at the Air Force Community Action Information Board. Once approved by the Air Force CAIB, Air Force leadership will focus on making the initiatives a part of the Air Force day-to-day operations.

While establishing new initiatives for 2013 was the main focus of the conference, it was very enlightening to hear the perspectives from Air Force leadership. Taking care of "all" Air Force members was emphasized. Leaders at all levels must identify the problems impacting our Airmen and encourage them to seek assistance from the helping agencies available to them. It was also stressed that while technology is vital to the success of future conflicts, it is still the people that make it happen.

In our day-to-day operations, supervisors can mentor and lead their team members, but it is up to each individual to complete their assigned duties and as the wing motto stresses, dominate their own high ground. It is difficult to take care of others when one cannot take care of themselves.

Another key point stressed was the importance of our Airmen establishing a culture of taking care of each other. It means being a wingman and helping fellow Airmen who need that extra push or need a little more attention. It means continuing to develop the resiliency skills necessary to better cope with day-to-day challenges and help those who may be struggling. The Air Force has numerous programs available for our Airmen to enhance resiliency and it is our job to encourage our Airmen to take advantage of the programs. It is also our job to let our Airmen know it is OK to seek help and that help it will not hinder one's career or have negative connotations.

The forum also focused on what was most important to our Airmen. This is a perfect tie to the ongoing "What not to do" effort. This effort is intended to focus on mission critical items and spend less time on the functions which offer little to no value to the wing's mission. Improving initiatives and recognizing common synergies are essential to mission success. Again, this is a perfect tie to the wing's Innovation and Discipline" priority. Regardless of the level of responsibility or position you hold, we all can look for new and better ways to do our job. With ongoing budget cuts and force restructuring, it is vital Airmen at all levels "think outside the box." As we develop and implement new innovations, the ordinary will become extraordinary.

We all realize our Air Force faces challenges, but as I left the conference, I felt refreshed knowing senior Air Force leadership cares and they truly want the best for the Air Force team. Our Airmen can voice their concerns through the CAIB process and their voice will be heard.