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Commentary: "Get Movin' Rocks"

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Rob Novotny
  • 67th Fighter Squadron commander
I don't remember where I heard this parable, but the moral of the story has stuck with me. 

A king completed construction on an immense road through his land and offered a contest to commemorate its grand opening. He selected three great sportsmen to travel along the road and promised a large prize to the fastest. One rode by horse, another drove a carriage and the final raced on foot. The king waited at the finish line and watched as the horseman and driver finished in short order. 

After completing the race, the king interviewed the first two competitors while awaiting the final runner. Both the horseman and the driver complained that their race times could have been faster were it not for a large pile of rocks in the middle of the road. The horseman told the king that his horse nearly fell and would have surely been injured. The carriage driver complained that he nearly rolled his unstable vehicle while avoiding the rocks. 

In the meantime, the final competitor arrived at the finish line to little fanfare and was greeted by the king. The king asked the runner of his journey to which he sheepishly replied that the road was indeed impressive. The runner went on telling the king he was ashamed of his race time but was delayed because of the rocks in the road. The king said he had heard of those rocks and hoped they caused him no injury. Quite the contrary replied the runner as he explained that his delay was due to his efforts to move the rocks from the road to ensure no one else would be affected by the danger. Without delay, the king announced he had found a winner, for the runner, although the slowest across the road, ran the best race. The runner saw a problem and took action to ensure no one else would be bothered on their journey.

If our current Air Force assignment is a journey across a road through the kingdom, then we can all agree there are significant rocks in our way, in fact I believe there are more rocks now than ever before. The Air Force has less manpower, more taskings, fewer resources, older equipment and we are surrounded by adversaries rearming themselves. Ok, so now what? Time to move some rocks! 

Your squadron commanders need problem solvers...airmen with resourceful ideas who innovate to overcome today's challenges. You can start today with simple solutions to problems such as picking up popcorn in the hallway or taking out the trash. But your commanders also need you to enforce dress and personal appearance standards, correct breaches of customs and courtesies, and finally step in when AFIs are being ignored or safety is a concern. 

The size of the rock you're moving doesn't matter as long as you recognize the problem and do something to fix it. We all belong to units with manning constraints, but I would rather be in a squadron with 67% manning and every airmen is a problem solver, than the other way around. 

Don't be the airman that leaves rocks on the road for others to encounter. Stop and make the road through the kingdom better for everyone by fixing the problems you see every day.