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NEWS | Nov. 8, 2007

Trust in Each Other

By Maj. Burke Beaumont 316th Comptroller Squadron commander

For most of the base populace, the end of the fiscal year comes and goes with little commotion. For those in the comptroller and contracting career fields, however, it's a period marked by long hours, rapid change, and a great deal of activity at every resource level. 

The closeout for Fiscal Year 2007 was no different, with Sept. 30 falling on a Sunday this time around. Millions of dollars changed hands, the phone rang off the hook, and thousands of emails were exchanged as we all did our best to fund line items ranging from quality of life initiatives for our young Airmen, to crucial deployment gear for our warfighters, to repair efforts for the base and airfield. At one point, however, the phone stopped ringing, perhaps from exhaustion ... emails stopped ... no one was tapping me on the shoulder with another update. In the eye of that financial storm I had a brief respite to reflect on recent events and realized with the kind of money we were moving there were so many opportunities for something to fail ... potential train wrecks every hour. I realized there was little I could do at that point and understood clearly the level of trust I had put in all those involved. About a second after that I concluded one could not successfully run a gauntlet of risk like that without trust ... each member moving independently to push the team toward one common objective. 

Important concepts like trust, integrity, and honor appear in leadership forums frequently. Trust is easily discussed, but perhaps harder to practice. 

I see trust opportunities all the time at every level; whether it's a wing commander trusting his or her staff to execute the grand vision, or a staff sergeant trusting the members of his or her section to blast through their portions of a paperwork backlog.
I suppose it's more difficult than one might think, especially for those Airmen who are experts in their fields. They can do it all themselves ... and they do. They come in early, stay late, and consistently produce volumes of high-quality results. But I see them keep that work on their desks, rather than enlist and train up others. 

I'm not sure when it happened for me. I was a pretty good technician back in the day, and more than once I put together some product myself because I felt it was so important I couldn't risk another person making an error. Happily though, I learned early enough in my career I couldn't do it all myself and that it was really better for everyone that I share and train those with me. 

Why? Trust fosters organizational buy-in. It inspires input. It inspires exchange of ideas. It inspires confidence. 

As an example, I have the privilege of working with some of the Air Force's finest men and women (civilian and military alike) in the 316th Comptroller Squadron. 

Not long ago I had a meeting with senior leadership. I had planned on arriving early to review the slides with my folks. However, I was delayed and arrived as the meeting was starting. Without hesitation, I walked in and grabbed the binder my budget officer had prepared for me and opened it for the first time in front of the wing commander. I could have asked to reschedule but I trusted my folks and the meeting went very well. 

During the closeout, both the contracting and comptroller squadrons endured system delays. With little time left that evening, I considered shutting everything down because if we couldn't get those millions on contract, we'd need to give it back as quickly as possible so others might get some use out of it. It would have been easy to throw in the towel at that point ... probably expected. I asked the contracting commander point blank if they could not only still operate, but get those millions obligated with so little time left. He told me it was under control. I trusted him and he trusted his team. 

The outcome was a spectacular end-of-year closeout for the base, garnering us $7.5M that day. You can't see or touch it, but that trust yielded tangible results like a $3M repair of the base's east-side electrical system, supplies for the Child Development Center, fitness equipment, and road and sidewalk repair. 

Looking ahead, it's likely we'll have less manning and resources to accomplish our mission. So, while I know the trust above has laid the foundation for an even better future, I also know we're going to need it more than ever.