Individual Resilience and Organizational Excellence

Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

RAF Alconbury, United Kingdom --

The 501 Combat Support Wing continues to progress forward on a steady path towards increased innovation and overall organizational effectiveness. In this pursuit we would be wise to look at more than rebuilding infrastructure and growing our ranks with more people. Organizational effectiveness should also be pursued by focusing our efforts on what is inherently successful within the Wing… rather than only trying to infuse huge amounts of resources to fix what is not successful. This is a very important distinction, because I believe there is a common shortfall which lies in the generally expressed approach of focusing on the problem, rather than advancing the solutions (inherent strengths) that exist within our ranks. I believe failure to focus the majority of our efforts on promoting our Wing’s inherent strengths, has at times drawn us into a resource-intensive vortex of problems that often plagues transforming organizations like the 501st Combat Support Wing. 

To illustrate this point, I ask your tolerance to share a true life experience. Long ago, (actually, way long-long-long ago), as a young Army major stationed in the Republic of Panama, I became close friends with a local family. The Trejos family consisted of a middle aged mother, several adult sons and daughters, and a very sickly young grandson. They made a meager living selling homemade food and providing fishing tours from a camp on Lake Gatun. Their problem, among many other things, was a very unsanitary living situation and the lack of reliable power. Their strength was rooted in strong family ties that were sustaining them in spite of their current fragile situation.

However, I was convinced that a little outside help towards fixing the problem would dramatically improve their quality of life.  So I repaired their old diesel generator, bought them a washing machine and helped get low cost medical treatment for the grandson. Moreover I encouraged them to look for additional ways to expand their family business and by providing some additional resources, they were able to expand their work hours and were making slow but steady progress towards increasing the family income.  

With new found entrepreneurial zeal, the oldest son decided to make even more money by organizing a “Fiesta” and selling tickets to people in the surrounding villages.  Unfortunately, this new business venture was a dismal failure, and the family was devastated when they lost almost three months of family income in just one night. The following day, instead of bemoaning their financial failure they went about their normal Sunday routine of straightening up the camp, which on this particular morning included washing their clothes by hand along the banks of the lake – totally disregarding the brand new washing machine I had recently bought them!

Within a short amount of time the disappointment of the previous night was replaced with the sounds of very loud and happy family banter.  Watching this family, while sitting under a bohio at a fishing camp in the interior jungle of Panama, it became very clear to me the Trejos’ strong family bond, rooted in a relatively primitive lifestyle, was the inherent core strength that provided them the resilience to overcome the fragile situation of their lives.  I realized at this point that if I really wanted to help improve their lot in life, the most effective means was to first support the core strength of the Trejos family!

Although, this is an example of resiliency at the smallest social unit of society, I believe this true life experience has greater applicability. If we truly care about each other, and want our fellow Airmen to grow and develop, we should first and foremost encourage and promote the inherent strengths that exist within everyone who wears a uniform and/or endeavors to serve in the defense of this great nation.  Most importantly we must understand that in the end, encouraging and promoting our collective strength of character is what will ultimately push the 501 Combat Support Wing towards the hill top of excellence - HOAAA!