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Make it Happen

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Eric Duncan
  • 375th Contracting Squadron commander
How many times have you had a legitimate mission need and are told "no" when you go to another organization for help? Hopefully it does not happen very often, but I am sure you agree that it is very frustrating and can make you question whether we are all on the same team.

Recently retired Lt. Gen. Rusty Findley spoke at a squadron commander course I attended last year and he provided several sayings or nuggets of advice that he called "Findleyisms." As someone who works in the support world, one of those sayings in particular really resonated with me, "Make it happen, using moral, legal and ethical means." Common sense--pretty simple and straightforward, but it serves as a great reminder of what our focus should be. It's also important to consider that whether you fly planes, check IDs at the gate or administer a safety program, pretty much all of us are in the support business, meaning someone somewhere depends on us to be mission enablers.

In the contracting profession, we sometimes fall into the trap of believing that our primary job is to enforce regulations and laws. While that is an important part of what we do, in the end we get paid to help our customers get what they need. We frequently have customers come to us with challenging requirements and it is very easy to simply point to a regulation and tell them no. That approach, however, does absolutely nothing to support our customers or contribute to success. I challenge the contracting professionals in my squadron to be mission partners and problem solvers, to take advantage of the flexibility the Federal Acquisition Regulations provide to do our business, not to prevent us from it. The same can be applied with any Air Force Instruction. Just to reemphasize, I am not advocating violating regulations, but do not use them as an excuse to say no. Use them as the framework they were intended to provide the needed support. Sometimes, you may find the regulations will not allow you to provide exactly what the customer is asking for. Take the opportunity to explain the obstacle to your customer and then work with them to find an alternative. In the end, you still may not find a solution that meets their needs, but at least you can take pride in knowing you did your best to assist and your customer will understand and appreciate your efforts.

I once read a funny poster that said "If we really cared about our customers we would send them somewhere better." Unfortunately, our customers do not have the luxury of choosing where they receive their support and when people come to you with a request, chances are pretty good that it is important to them and their mission. Embrace the concept that we are one team, one fight, and please do your part to make that something happen. After all, you may need their help in the future.