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Leading in our fiscal environment

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- While executing a few mission rehearsals in the middle of the African desert, one of my men was returning to our rally point on his all-terrain vehicle and was being a little too aggressive in his maneuvers.

Sure enough, he ended up in the dirt with the ATV alongside him. The rest of the team ran to ensure he was uninjured. He was fine, but the ATV was now inoperative. I asked him what had happened and he replied that he was just having a little fun. Then I asked if he thought his little bit of fun was worth it.

"Yes, we can just get a new ATV," he said, smiling.

His smile faded when I asked if a fellow Airman who may be home with his family after a long deployment would like to take his place if the bumps and bruises were a little more serious.

"No," he replied.

Could he fix the ATV that he just broke?

"No," he answered again.

Did he know that the unit is currently strapped for cash and could not replace the alert vehicle smoking next to us, which is no longer available for alert?

"No," he said for the third time.

In fact, we would not have the money until next fiscal year, which was four months away, and then we would have to bump something else off the budget during that fiscal quarter.

The problem is that the Air Force can no longer afford to simply "get a new one." Because of this, we all need to take care of the gear that we have. If something is broken, we may need to mend it ourselves.

It was my mistake for not pushing the big picture out to my guys earlier than this point and for allowing such a mindset to exist up until then - in truth, I have had the same thoughts in the past. Today, I think of how I can maintain my equipment to prevent breakage. If I had to, I would personally fix the gear I do break.

Most of the time, if you have to think whether something is worth doing or not, it is probably not. Do not do it; instead do something that will not damage you, others or Air Force equipment.

Take care of your gear and your unit. Our Air Force will be all the better because of your responsible decision.