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Moving to better serve

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Dave Berthe
  • 375th Medical Support Squadron commander
"Mom, Dad-why do we have to leave?" This is often a question military parents hear before PCSing to another duty station or when close friends move.

For some, the nomadic lifestyle is something only to be tolerated or to which they must grow accustomed. For others the frequent moves are a thrilling opportunity to explore new locations and to meet new people.

Why do military move personnel so frequently? For the Air Force, there are at least four important reasons to spend millions of dollars moving people and families around the world.

The first reason is fairly obvious--mission requirements. If every move was strictly voluntary, we wouldn't have the right mix of people with the required rank and skill set for many important missions or locations.

A second reason is recruiting and retention. For many young adults the chance to be stationed overseas, to travel and see the world is a significant recruiting tool. From a retention perspective, frequent rotations allow the Air Force to limit time spent in austere locations or to provide the opportunity for that dream assignment overseas, near the ocean or next to the mountains.

A third reason to move people around is for force development. Every organization has its own culture and set of best practices. Moving Air Force members around enables those individuals to observe and to learn from that culture and those best practices. Experiencing different organizational as well as social cultures broadens one's awareness and can help a leader address issues or improve morale and teamwork. It also helps improve problem solving skills by providing ideas of what has worked well (or what has not worked) at other locations. Moving personnel around also enables individuals to work in different types of organizations.

For example, in my career I've had the privilege to work at a clinic, a hospital, and the Air Staff. Each of these provided a different perspective--outpatient medical care versus inpatient (and outpatient) care versus strategic resourcing of the enterprise. Add to this diversity of assignments deployment opportunities and one gains an even greater appreciation for the breadth and diversity of our Air Force mission, especially if you deploy as part of a joint or coalition force. This career-long development along with professional military education creates a better-rounded and more insightful senior enlisted or commissioned leader.

A fourth and reciprocal benefit to moving personnel around is that the Air Force benefits. The Air Force is an incredibly diverse and complex organization. When you arrived at Scott, you brought into your work section a fresh perspective and the energy to tackle new challenges. These fresh perspectives and energy breathe new life into the Air Force. Additionally, the insights brought from previous bases, deployments, and experiences help to bring cohesion to this complex organization and that translates to improved mission effectiveness. For customer service organizations, new personnel can often be objective customers of our services and an excellent source for how we can improve our customer service. Unless this is your first permanent duty station, when you arrived you brought knowledge, insights and experience to your new job that has or will help your work center to do some process more efficiently or with better customer service.

In summary, the military doesn't move people arbitrarily, but rather does so for important reasons, such as to enable or enhance critical missions and to develop you as an Air Force leader. In the coming years of budget cuts, PCS funding will likely receive additional scrutiny and cuts. As this happens it will be crucial for all Airmen to hone or develop those AFSO21 skills and to find other ways to breathe new life, energy, and critical thinking into their organization; something that used to happen naturally as part of frequent PCS rotations.