Three-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong stated that “times of transition are strenuous, but I love them. They are an opportunity to purge, rethink priorities, and be intentional about new habits.  We can make our new normal any way we want.” 

As we continue to Develop World-Class Airmen here at the 374th Airlift Wing, I think we should reflect on this quote and ask ourselves how we are taking advantage of the changing times to take stock of ourselves, purging those habits that are holding us and our Airmen back, prioritizing their considerable talents, and bending the future to our will.

From my perspective in the 374th AMXS, I have seen a lot of change here at Yokota in the past four years. The biggest and best advertised change has been our ongoing transition from the tried and true C-130H to the new hotness, the C-130J; a technical marvel born of the computer age. 

I have witnessed leadership across the 374th Maintenance Group do exactly what Kristin Armstrong implores us, and have seized this time to better train, better communicate priorities, and ensure that the new normal is as close to the ideal state that it can be. Through this deliberate plan of action, the MXG is doing its part to ensure its maintainers, schedulers, analysts, and supply technicians to name a few keep the 374th Airlift Wing the dominant provider of tactical airlift over the majority of the globe in the years to come.

Another ever-changing aspect here in the Air Force are the Airmen that we are entrusted to lead.  Each new batch of airmen come to us better educated and better trained than the last. Those that complain about “Airmen these days…” are a cynical bunch. It is up to us to recognize this and leverage each airmen’s talents to propel our force into the 21st Century. 

Have you ever had a new airman in your work center ask a question, causing you to get back in the regs, only to discover that you yourself were doing something wrong? I know I have.  I also watch with envy as our youngest technicians on Yokota’s flightline diagnose aircraft discrepancies with a laptop, combing through codes and pinpointing faults. I could barely type when I entered the Air Force…  I’m sure that no matter where you work, you see the same kinds of changes and opportunities.

On the other hand, our Airmen, our greatest asset, are still the same in more ways than not to the very first airmen that escaped the bonds of earth in aircraft of canvas and wood. As Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright pointed out at his Yokota all-call, our airmen these days get into the same kinds of mischief that his counterparts did and those that came before him.  And though we all come from a million different corners of the globe, with a million different reasons for serving, we are all the same as we are bonded by our singular mission to project America’s airpower. 

For generations, our Air Force epitomized the nation’s motto, E Pluribus Unum.  Out of many, one.

In order to Develop World-Class Airmen, we need to capitalize on their strengths and use our commonality to communicate. Just as you did when you entered the Air Force, whether it was one, 10, or 30 years ago, they want their unique talents to be sought out and recognized. Just as you did, they want to be led by leaders that are passionate about their development. 

This kind of leadership cannot be done from behind a desk and this cannot be done through 140 character tweets. This kind of leadership takes going out and getting into our sections, work centers, and flightlines to truly understand the dynamic, ever changing environment that our people work in. It is then up to you to lead those in your charge to the new normal that you desire.

Ganbatte, Team Yokota!

-Senior Master Sgt. James Herron, 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron