How Airmen can affect climate change

Col. Craig D. Wills is the commander of the 39th Air Base Wing at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. As commander, Colonel Wills is responsible for approximately 5,000 U.S. military, civilian and contractor personnel and the combat readiness of U.S. Air Force units at Incirlik and two geographically-separated units in Turkey.

Col. Craig D. Wills is the commander of the 39th Air Base Wing at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. As commander, Colonel Wills is responsible for approximately 5,000 U.S. military, civilian and contractor personnel and the combat readiness of U.S. Air Force units at Incirlik and two geographically-separated units in Turkey.

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- In spite of a bout of jetlag and some post-traumatic stress issues due to winter driving in the D.C. area, I want to take a moment to share some things I learned and pondered as a result of attending a summit last week for Air Force wing commanders.

The main purpose of the three-day meeting in the nation's capitol was to get Air Force leadership on the same sheet of music as we move forward with our initiative to prevent sexual assault in the military. Of course, the military budget and personnel reductions were topics of conversation as well.

There were a few common themes that showed up regardless of the subject at hand, the primary one being climate change. I'm not talking about global warming or greenhouse gases; I'm talking about the climate of Air Force culture.

When you really get down to it, we, the men and women who are the USAF, determine the climate we live in. It's true we enter the Air Force fresh out of training or get assigned to a new unit and inherit whatever climate is immediately given to us; but, it doesn't have to stop there.

If the culture (or sub-culture - i.e. the "worlds" of maintainers, defenders, aircrew, etc.) is good and professionalism and respect are the norm, then strive to make the climate even better. But if you walk into a culture that doesn't meet the Air Force standard, don't just assimilate! Make it better.

Change does not come easily, I get that. It's not likely that a new Airman right out of training is going to stroll into their gaining unit and change it overnight. If they do try to go against the flow, they're sure to meet resistance. There will be some peers and even supervisors who have settled for the sub-standard way of life we are seeking to eradicate from our Air Force, and they'll probably discourage the new Airman. I say, "don't give up!"

Change is here, and more is on the way. That's the nature of the Air Force today.

Whether it's embracing the movement to prevent sexual assaults, learning to get the mission done with less resources, or eliminating people who don't meet the standards, those who are able to acclimate to the climate change will find themselves part of the leanest, highest performing Air Force in the history of the world. Those who can't will likely find themselves on the outside looking in.

Remember, we have the power to affect climate change. As we all strive to be the best Airmen we can be, the climate will change for the good. There's never been a better time to be a better Airman.