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Are you working on your readiness?

Lt. Col. Michael A. Wulfestieg, Commander, 21st Space Operations Squadron

Lt. Col. Michael A. Wulfestieg, Commander, 21st Space Operations Squadron

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

Editor's note: This commentary was originally published June 24, 2013. Col. Wulfestieg is now the chief of safety with the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

So are you? No, this isn't a trick question, but to answer fully it probably takes more than a simple "yes" or "no." To be honest, I am not just talking about your individual deployment readiness or even civil engineering's base-wide disaster preparedness. No, I am actually more interested in your daily efforts to be ready for "anything" and "everything."

The front page story of a recent Schriever Sentinel talked about being ready, as an individual and a community, for a major incident such as the Waldo Canyon fire. It mentioned the importance of planning ahead, both to avoid fires in the first place, and then if they occur, being trained to fight back the flames. And if all else fails, having an evacuation plan that you and your family can execute quickly.

But it goes even beyond that, into all areas of your life and job. It takes plenty of studying and practice to be proficient at your day-to-day tasks, and to know how to handle those once-in-a-career anomalies. And it takes ongoing focus and effort to make sure that your additional-duty programs and special projects are ready for that next inspection or status check. You know that you don't want to go into one of those unprepared. The same goes for career development courses, Weighted Airmen Promotion System testing or your next college course exam - every one of those requires some dedicated and focused effort to be properly prepared.

As the wing chief of safety a couple years ago, I viewed the job as essentially two-fold. Most visibly, we were there to investigate problems and incidents when they occurred, to find root causes and report those findings to the chain of command. That meant we needed to be ready to conduct those investigations, and know how to use the specialized tools and processes so we could quickly and efficiently reach our conclusions. But the second part of the job was accident prevention, which always focused on individual and organizational preparedness to perform a task or action. Whether constructing a building, driving the car around the corner to the grocery store or going scuba diving for the weekend, the safety office continuously emphasized risk management, having a plan and a good wingman and highlighted the critical role of preparedness in reducing the likelihood of negative consequences.

How about your personal life? Have you joined Col. James Ross, 50th Space Wing commander, in some top-of-the-hour pushups so that you are that much more ready for that next fitness assessment or do you need to put in some extra effort in some other area of the test to guarantee your success? And don't forget that all-important mental readiness, things like getting enough sleep, proper nutrition and avoiding distractions when you have a challenging task to accomplish.

As many of my friends know, I am very active as a Boy Scout leader, where "Be Prepared" is more than a slogan; it is the essence of the entire program. I recently participated in an Eagle Scout court of honor, where two young men were being honored for their months and years of effort as they reached the pinnacle of their scouting careers. But even that night, as they celebrated this fantastic achievement, I took a few minutes to re-emphasize that they still had a lot to be ready for in the future, whether it be in serving their community, starting a career or helping a younger scout to reach their next step in rank. I told them they would have an entire lifetime of endeavoring to "be prepared."

So, I'll ask the question again, "Are you working on your readiness?" Have you been planning, studying, practicing or rehearsing so that you were better prepared? Or did someone remind you that you might need to brush up on a certain task or review some specific material prior to an upcoming evaluation? Whatever the case may be, each one of us needs to spend at least a few minutes each day working to get a little bit better, a little bit faster and a little bit more efficient. How can we claim to have "excellence in all we do" if we are caught unprepared?