Monday, 30 March 2015

Fixing the Unbroken Thing and Then Fixing the Fix

Years ago, I made a simple decision (without a lot of forethought) of joining the Air Force.  There was a ten-minute video that the recruiter played of basic ensure that I understood the six-week training episode.

The goal in the mid-70's for Air Force basic training was simple.  Teach the overall idea of obeying a standard of work ethic.  They structured the barracks life, the folding of t-shirts and underwear (along with socks) into part of that work ethic.  Clustered around this....was the art of marching.  The icing on the cake was physical activities which got you into fairly decent shape within a six-week period.  If you weren't in shape prior to were by the sixth week.  

There were around a dozen hours of training structured into mental racism and sexism.  It was a basic introduction to behavior modification.

Then you left and went off to some technical training school.

To be honest....all of the folding of t-shirts, underwear and socks came to an absolute end.  Lights out or curfew basically ended.  The mental stuff on racism and sexism?  That continued on as you arrived at each new had a half-day reminder thrust upon you.

I'll be's hard to modify an eighteen-year-old kid in six weeks.  Even if you had nine's difficult to modify someone.  Basic Training is just a brief orientation course to get you up to a certain level.

Occasionally.....roughly every decade....the generals and chiefs meet and resolve to fix a "broke" Basic Training situation for the Air Force.  Folks kinda laugh about this.  After the Vietnam War, I came into the newer structured Air push-ups, more emphasis on avoiding sexism and racism, and gentle reminders by the instructors instead of harsh 'yelling'.

In the eighties, they resolved to fix Basic Training again.  In the nineties.....another new repair job.  And a decade ago came what I'd refer to as "Strike Force" training.....making the Air Force appear slightly more Army than the previous Air Force.

To accomplish the new agenda....they needed to roughly two more weeks.  This meant more physical challenges....more compound-like scenarios....sandbags...guns....etc.

This all came after 9-11 and the Air Force slowly got drafted into handing young airman, NCOs and junior officers over to ground units in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Convoy and guard duty.  Not of the jobs fit into the previous Air Force structure or training.  So they actually had to invent another class for everyone to attend and learn how to act "Army".  I was fairly amusing.  If you wanted to be "Army" would have joined the Army.

The generals and chiefs took some criticism and rebuilt Air Force Basic Training into this "Strike Force" idea (my term for it, not theirs).

The odd thing with the two extra weeks added to the training schedule.....not one single extra training was added to the manpower listings. was amazing that they actually accomplished this without any extra help.

Oddly, within five years.....various sandals started to erupt out of Basic Training.  Most of it was because instructors were caught doing stupid stuff.

Blame?  Well....they eventually decided that there just wasn't enough character-building in boot-camp.  So another new fix is being prepared and introduced (the next version of Air Force Basic Training), and it's all about older officers and instructors (not necessarily NCOs) instructing on character-building.  The program name?  "Capstone".

What CAN you teach in eight to nine weeks to radically change some kid out of high school? Basically, you are asking for the impossible.  This might come across to a quarter of the folks there, but the bulk probably need an entire year of have any measurable results. Then the odd thing is that you'd turn those young folks loose onto the corrupted Air Force world and watch them ask stupid questions of older NCOs and officers in general.

I came to a radical point in the 1990s before retiring from the Air Force....where I questioned anyone who said something was 'broke' and needed fixing.  I often had found that solutions were often the trigger of a consequence, and actually made a situation much worse than it already was.  Rather than revamping an entire program.....if you marginally made one simple change....the effect of the change solved the entire problem.  Rather than million-dollar solutions....I came to realize the nickel-solution was often more practical.

The problem with nickel-solutions is that no one gets medals for them or promotion brownie-points. Everyone wants mega changes that revolve around entire new manpower solutions or costly structural changes.

A decade from now.....the Air Force generals and chiefs will meet again....some new scandal....some newly created problem, and fix up another massive change.  In forty years....I expect Air Force boot-camp to be an entire year in length.  No one will be able to explain why, but they will discover that character-building is not a one-week phase of life introduction.  It requires something that classrooms can't deliver upon.

Just my two cents of humble observation.

No comments: