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Commentary: Embracing 'Lighter and Leaner' Change

The author Eric Hoffer once wrote, “In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the
learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

By U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Dickmeyer

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England, Mar. 1, 2006 – The author Eric Hoffer once wrote, “In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

What an elegant way to tell us that people who embrace change will continue to move forward while those who don’t will get left behind. And no where is change more prolific than in the U.S. Air Force.

"We need to become a lighter, leaner and more lethal fighting force capable of taking the fight to the enemy quickly and decisively."

U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Dickmeyer

Want proof? Just look at the last 15 years:

In 1992, the Air Force underwent a massive reorganization that divided up the country’s strategic bomber and tanker force and placed them into the newly formed Air Combat and Air Mobility Commands.

For some Strategic Air Command-trained warriors of the time, the change was a devastating blow, which culminated in a large number of impromptu retirements. But the Air Force saw the change through and as a result, our combat power flourished.

The Air Force reorganized again in 2002 - this time by combining supply and transportation squadrons with logistics plans to form the new logistics readiness squadron; by putting all maintainers in a separate maintenance group and by standing up a new mission support group.

Once more, hordes of non-believers chanted their mantras of doom … and once more, the Air Force came out better for the change.

Now, as new threats of non-state affiliated terrorism have forced us to rethink our national strategy, it is time for yet another change.

In short, we need to become a lighter, leaner and more lethal fighting force capable of taking the fight to the enemy quickly and decisively. In order to achieve this endstate, we need to replace our aging aircraft with state-of-the-art fighters and bombers and that takes money.

The reality is that our rebirth will drive cuts in our end strength to fund new aircraft and equipment; and in doing so, will fundamentally change the way we do business.

That is reality if you listen very closely, you can already hear stomachs rumble as the nervous few desperately try to hang onto status quo.

But change is inevitable and it is time to abandon the familiar and look for innovations that will lead us into the future.

For the warrior who embraces change, this is a very exciting time full of great opportunity. Abraham Lincoln hit the nail on the head when he said, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present.

The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.”

The world has changed and we have another opportunity to grow, adapt and evolve. The future is ours but it will take courage, optimism and perseverance - all we have to do is collectively reach out and grab it.

In the words of Alan Cohen, “It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.”

Even though I am often called a crusty old colonel who is too old to change, I am watching our new evolution with my eyes wide open and am anxiously waiting to see what the Air Force of the future is going to look like.
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Nov. 27, 2014
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