Doing more with less

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jeffrey G. Compton
  • 45th Reconnaissance Squadron commander
Doing more with less. We've all heard the phrase and I've seen it become a reality over the past 19 years on active duty. When I pinned on my second lieutenant bars, the Air Force had more than 600,000 active-duty Airmen; we were fighting a cold war from permanent bases; Iraq was fighting Iran; no one had heard of Kosovo; and Afghanistan was where the Soviets had been defeated. 

At the time, no one could have predicted the Berlin Wall was going to fall resulting in a "peace dividend," that would cut the Air force strength nearly in half. Nor could anyone foresee the military taking on an expeditionary role, or that 9/11 would occur, dramatically changing the landscape of warfare. 

I have witnessed firsthand the increases on operational tasking at the squadron level. At the same time, I've also seen manning decrease as administrative and communication support are consolidated at the group and wing level. So, how in a resource-strained environment is a squadron able to maintain its expeditionary combat capability and still perform administrative functions required to take care of our Airmen and their families? 

In nearly two years as a squadron commander, the foundation the squadron is built on and the thing that enables the unit to continue to do more with less is that each and every Airman lives and personifies the Air Force core values on a daily basis. 

Integrity First: Integrity is the key to getting the job done in a time and resource constrained environment. I have to be able to trust a jet is ready to go when the crew chief gives the thumbs up. I have to trust my evaluators when they assign a grade on a flight check. I must rely on my physical training leaders to give fair and accurate fitness tests so I know my squadron is fit to fight. 

Service Before Self: Every day I see Airmen and their families sacrificing their time and energy to defend our freedom and fight for the freedom of others. All who wear the uniform volunteered to serve our nation and many who joined after 9/11 came in with a clear understanding of the sacrifices required. Even for those who joined prior to 9/11, most had opportunities to leave the service but made the decision to stay instead. I've seen individuals who volunteer for extended temporary duty assignments and I've seen those left behind, charged with picking up the workload for our deployed Airmen. I hear few complaints about long days and nights, weekend duty or time spent away from home. Everyone feels connected to the mission and is proud of the contribution he or she is making to the fight; and are willing to do what it takes to get the mission accomplished. 

Excellence in All We Do: In today's squadron, "all we do" is not an abstract concept it is reality. Unlike my early career, where I was able to focus fairly heavily on my Air Force Specialty Code-specific duties for the first four to five years, today's young officers and enlisted are required to be experts in their core field, while balancing the many additional duties required to operate a squadron. My Airmen are expected to be as proficient filing and approving travel vouchers in the Defense Travel System as they are operating aircraft and knowing technical order guidance. It is truly amazing to see the level of dedication needed to acquire excellence in such a wide range of required activities. 

While we may not stress the core values every day, I definitely rely on the fact that those under my command live these values through their character and actions. Whether acquired during their upbringing or ingrained in training, without the Air Force core values as the bedrock supporting our Air Force members, we would be less capable of doing more with less, and defending and spreading the freedom we enjoy.