Force-shaping process requires 'long view'

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- It's a difficult time to be in the Air Force. Regardless of rank, field or position, we're all under quite a lot of stress.

At a global level, the U.S. military is in more places at the present time than we've ever been before—the Global War on Terrorism, ongoing peacekeeping missions or previous decades' obligations.

As a result, the four services are spread thin. Nearly every job is expeditionary. There are fewer permanent bases and many more deployments. Families are sometimes stretched to their limits.

On top of that we have Base Realignment and Closure, Congressional manning mandates and budget shortfalls. No one is unaffected.

Despite these pressures, we maintain a culture of excellence. We demand no less. We live by words like "stratify" and "outpace." We compete at every opportunity, whether it is enlistment, commissioning or the first job pick out of technical schools.

In a perfect world, this makes us all sharper at what we do and drives us closer to perfection. Unfortunately, there are side effects.

Consider the current crop of first lieutenants, most of whom by now have received word on whether they will be asked to continue their service or be sent on their way. They have had their lives and merits racked and stacked to determine who was worth keeping.

In the face of this kind of stress, people tend to lose sight of the goal. Pilots call this "target fixation"—it can lead to flying an aircraft into the side of a mountain.

We may be in danger of exactly the same thing if we do not retain our focus on our mission. Despite the sacrifices of money and manpower we must make, we still have a job to do for the betterment of the nation.

We cannot afford to waste time on lamenting our losses, licking our wounds or lambasting decisions with which we may not agree. We need to pull together as Airmen, as squadrons and as a command.

In this community, everything happens in cycles. Today's leadership can recall when they and their peers were on the chopping block, when they had to deliver miracles on a shoestring budget. They got through it—and in time, so will we.

Airmen will become chiefs. Lieutenants will become colonels. The mission will continue.