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Innovation demands we stay focused on the future

Published: 01:35PM May 23rd, 2013

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — I was recently sitting on my uncle’s porch in Compton, Calif., when my uncle began playing Al Green on a new stereo system he had just purchased.

I asked my Uncle James, “What happened to the old days when you played your albums and 45s?”

He said, “Only a fool sits around and wishes for the old days. Things are constantly changing and to remain relevant, all of us must be willing to change.”

So I ask, how many times have you heard about the “old Air Force?” When I joined the Air Force, it seemed as if we had unlimited dollars and numerous personnel.

I can remember hot seating — sharing a desk with three other Airmen. There were unlimited resources and more than enough personnel to accomplish the mission.

Our nation and our Air Force has changed. Our enemies have changed, and the way we train and fight has changed. We must change or change will be forced upon us. Budgetary constraints and personnel reductions have forced Air Force leaders to make tough calls. Leaders at all levels are looking at better, more efficient ways to accomplish the mission.

The good old days are gone.

My uncle used the word “fool” but he didn’t use it in a disrespectful or demeaning way. He said life is meant to be lived looking forward. The same can be said about our great Air Force. If we are to remain the world’s greatest fighting force we must continue to look forward. We must continue to develop and leverage leading edge technology. More importantly, we must continue to develop and educate our officer and enlisted forces. Great minds will continue to move our great Air Force forward.

We can’t begin to think what worked yesterday will work tomorrow. The victories of yesterday do not guarantee easy wins tomorrow. We can’t get caught up living, wishing, hoping for the good old days. We must stay in front of the enemy. We must continue to pursue and destroy those who want to destroy our way of life.

We need leaders to push our Air Force into the future. The good days are just that: good and old. However, it’s still great to think about those times. I plan to go home tonight and listen to my Motown oldies music. With all the changes and budgetary constraints, I admit I still love the Air Force. These are its best days, despite the challenges.

When you find yourself thinking about the good old days, remember we have to be better today than we were yesterday. Though the good old days were great, today is even better and tomorrow will be better still. Let’s continue to be innovative during these trying times. Our nation is counting on us to look forward, not live in the past. No matter how challenging the times, our focus must always be forward.