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Readiness - essential for our expeditionary Air Force

by Maj. Grant L. Izzi
6th Maintenance Squadron commander

Have you ever heard the saying, "A pint of sweat, saves a gallon of blood?" This quote by one of the great warriors in history is as true today as it was in World War II. Gen. George Patton knew that time spent getting ready for battle was critical to ensuring victory.

Although most of us in the Air Force are not engaged in hand-to- hand combat, readiness to perform our mission is no less critical. For every Marine, Soldier, Sailor and Airman fighting on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan, support for them from the air is vital.

Our ability to perform the mission at home or in the terrorist's backyard, hinges on how well we prepare each and every day. As a commander, I look at readiness in two ways. First, readiness of my unit to perform its overall mission, and second the readiness of my personnel to perform their part of the unit's mission.

Overall unit readiness, in my opinion, is the easier of the two to assess. Whether you are in charge of a squadron or small section, the key is to ensure you have meaningful indicators to measure performance of your important processes. These indicators will help you determine weak areas that need attention, and allow you to focus your improvement efforts.

An example of a good unit readiness indicator we can all use is our mishap statistics, especially as we enter the 101 critical days of summer. If you are a section supervisor and don't have any key performance indicators or are not sure how or what to measure, ask your boss for some advice on what they think is important. We perform our mission well, but there is room for improvement.

Personnel readiness, on the other hand, is by far the most challenging to assess because we are all different and possess different strengths and weaknesses. Since we don't always deploy as a unit, individually we have to be ready to answer the call and be able to perform at our expected skill level.

One measurement of individual readiness is training, and the goal for a supervisor should always be to ensure each of their personnel is trained to the highest level possible. Although this is a supervisory responsibility, it's up to each of us to take charge of our own readiness as well. I know that sometimes it may seem we have an insurmountable amount of individual training requirements like CDCs, core tasks, work center tasks, ancillary training, fitness, etc. But all of this training is vitally important, as I witnessed first hand on a recent deployment to Balad Air Base, Iraq.

When I received my orders to Iraq, little did I know that I would be at the insurgent's favorite place to lob mortars and rockets. But what I saw and experienced in "Mortaritaville" was our Airmen and Air Force readiness at its best.

Of course, Air Mobility Command was performing its overall mission flawlessly by delivering critical cargo and supplies, as well as our own tankers supplying 'life blood' to the shooters so they could protect the troops on ground. The most impressive thing, however, was watching our Airmen in action in a combat environment despite daily attacks from the enemy.

Unfortunately, the bad guys would get lucky once in a while and a mortar or rocket would cause personal injury or equipment damage. On one such occasion, myself and others were at the wing headquarters for a meeting when we heard a loud explosion. Outside, we saw the wing commander attending to a severely injured civilian worker. At that moment, all those years of self aid and buddy care training was paying off, and everyone was using the skills that many of us have taken for granted. Never underestimate the importance of your training!

All indicators point to the fact that we will continue to operate on the road and around the world for many years, so we must continue to emphasize the importance of 'being ready.'

I started with a quote from General Patton, so I'll close with another (edited for PC), "No poor guy ever won a war by giving his life for his country. He won it by making other poor guys give their life for their country." Maintaining a high state of unit and personnel readiness will allow us to continue our great success in combat and ensure that other guy continues to give their life instead of us!

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