Reinforce compliance, accept nothing less
By Lt. Col. Richard Gibbs, 7th Maintenance Group
/ Published September 24, 2013
DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Aircraft maintenance is a challenging and rewarding endeavor. Success for a maintainer is seeing a job through to completion, fixing an elusive discrepancy and watching a Bone or Herc take-off into the wild blue yonder as it flies toward a combat or training mission. Failure, though, can take many forms. The worst is the loss of life and equipment, injury and mission failure. Doing the job right the first time is critical to safeguarding precious and scarce resources. For those of us in the aircraft maintenance business, compliance with guidance in Air Force Instructions and technical orders is not only mandatory, it is what helps ensure we avoid fatal flaws and do the job correctly. This guidance gives precisely written, detailed instructions on how we need to accomplish each maintenance task, to include critical notations that warn us of dangerous procedures.
Since taking command in July, I have seen several cases where compliance did not occur. As a result, we have damaged aircraft and equipment, reducing the number of aircraft available to meet the mission. Worse still, several of our Airmen were hurt, to include one technician who lost part of his thumb because someone else failed to comply. This Airman was lucky, as it could have been much worse. He wants to come back to work, but he has many months of physical therapy ahead to relearn how to do everything, from holding a fork to turning a wrench. Because mission failure is not an option in this Air Force, what non-compliance has meant to everyone else is having to pick up additional work.
Non-compliance, for us, is like someone moving the finish line further away in the middle of the race. It can be frustrating and demoralizing. It is easy to grumble about the need for each of us to run further, but where we should be focusing our energy is in preventing people from pushing that finish line further away. Each of us needs to prevent and correct non-compliance.
I've asked all the Airmen in the 7th Maintenance Group, especially the NCOs, to refocus their efforts. I've asked them to look at their own actions and behavior, to ensure they are doing things right and setting the right example. I've asked them to look at the technician to their left and right to ensure they are complying and to take a stand when they are not. My expectation is that they will have the personal courage to correct failures in compliance as soon as they see it, regardless of the person's rank. I'm also asking them to take note of the good examples of compliance they see every day and to do something to reinforce that behavior.
To me, compliance is a facet of integrity: doing the right thing, even when no one is looking. Compliance does not just pertain to aircraft maintenance. It applies to each of our different career fields and to our common activities. I've had some thoughts about how compliance and non-compliance affect us in aircraft maintenance. A broader example is the wear of the military uniform. It is easy to comply with the wear guidance, but each of us has likely seen a number of instances where another was not wearing the uniform correctly. Did you have the moral courage to say something and correct the non-compliance? We've each seen someone who looked exceptionally sharp. Did you take note and thank them for setting the example?
I challenge each of you to set the standard across the Air Force and within your specialty. Correct non-compliance. Reinforce compliance. Accept nothing less.