USAA Tips: Lessons from Air Force veterans

Content provided courtesy of USAA | By Chad Storlie

The U.S. Air Force is the nation’s youngest service, but Air Force veterans have provided tremendous contributions on how to make organizations more effective, more resilient, and better served.

The U.S. Air Force finds new ways to do things with older assets. Here is a great question to ask a businessperson: “How many 50-plus-year-old assets does your company use daily?” Maybe a few buildings or some pieces of property? The Air Force has constantly innovated to continue to employ and make old assets even more effective. Take the B-52, the primary strategic bomber of the Air Force. The B-52 entered military service in 1955, yet the Air Force found ways to make it effective from the jungles of Vietnam, to the mountains of Afghanistan, to the plains of Syria. This incredible innovation with old assets is a lesson in leadership, innovation, maintenance, and cost effectiveness.

The U.S. Air Force applies innovation and technology to the most important tasks. The Air Force led in the application and creation of the Global Positioning System (GPS) to ensure planes stayed on course and ordnance went where it was supposed to land. GPS, the use of armed drones, the creation of cyber defenses, and the creation of redundant command and control systems for nuclear forces are all areas where Air Force innovation and technology excelled.

The U.S. Air Force demonstrates that organizations can discover and grow high-tech talent. In most businesses, they identify a high tech need and then find people with those skills and hire them. The Air Force cannot do that. Instead, in an era of high technology skill hiring, the Air Force excelled in high technology training. The Air Force trained stealth pilots, jet engine repair people, computer technicians, and other high technology skilled airmen that were critical to success that could not simply be hired. Growing and continually upskilling a high-tech work force is a lesson for every organization in the world.

The U.S. Air Force demonstrates the importance of effective teams. The Air Force is often seen as individuals such as pilots, ParaRescuemen (PJ’s) and other skills. Yet combat and transportation aircraft need runways, maintenance, fuel, weather information, enemy intelligence, ordnance, training, security and a myriad of other skills to be successful. The Air Force deeply understands that great performance comes from efficient teams that all know, understand, and believe in the mission.

The U.S. Air Force demonstrates that supporting roles are vital roles. Large scale military operations are usually organized into supported and supporting roles. The Army, Navy, or the Marines are usually the supported force that will accomplish the precise military mission such as defending an area of terrain, protecting an endangered population, or attacking terrorists. The Air Force then becomes the supporting force that provides logistics, support, and attack capabilities to the supported force.

The U.S. Air Force is a marvel of innovation, technology, team work, and mission focus for the defense of the United States.