Capt. James T. Kirk, the Kobiashi Maru, and AFSO21

  • Published
  • By Col. Ken Stefanek
  • 39th Air Base Wing vice commander
One of the legends surrounding Capt. James T. Kirk had it that he was the only starship captain ever to pass the training scenario known as the Kobiashi Maru. Starfleet command designed the Kobiashi Maru as a no-win scenario in order to observe how potential starship captains reacted to failure. When asked how he passed the Kobiashi Maru, Captain Kirk, commander of the starship Enterprise in the T.V. series "Star Trek", calmly replied that he changed the parameters of the scenario by taking a totally different approach to the problem. In today's parlance, we would say that Captain Kirk thought "outside the box." He realized that the existing tactics, techniques and procedures would not suffice when trying to solve the Kobiashi Maru and instead of settling for failure, he came up with a new way to get the job done.

Many of us face our own Kobiashi Marus every day as we try to figure out how to achieve mission success. Our challenges may not have been designed by a higher authority to gauge our reaction to failure, but the dwindling budgets, manpower cuts, and evolving missions we deal with provide obstacles as formidable as anything ever depicted in the movies or on T.V.

While Captain Kirk may have been a one-of-a kind leader within Starfleet Command, today's Air Force is filled with thousands of leaders every bit as resourceful as Captain Kirk. As Airmen, we have inherited a legacy filled with examples of outside-the-box thinking and we continue to build on that legacy. Additionally, we enjoy the benefits of Air Force Smart Operations 21, a program that helps us find better ways to accomplish the mission by giving us structured tools that allow us to analyze our processes and procedures.

Unlike "Star Trek" however, where the Kobiashi Maru was a training scenario, our challenges are very real and our future success depends on our ability to apply AFSO21 principles to everything we do. By thinking outside the box, approaching old problems in new ways, and applying AFSO21 principles, we will all solve our own Kobiashi Marus and will continue to ensure freedom's future just as Captain Kirk did for Starfleet Command.