Keep it simple

  • Published
  • By Master Sergeant Christopher Coarse
  • 166th Airlift Wing

few months ago, I had a meeting with Chief Horay. It was about a mentoring program that I had tried to start and it didn’t work as I had intended. One small thing Chief had said resonated with me a little louder than anything else. Essentially, it was "keep it simple". That’s one thing I constantly remind myself and others. Occasionally I need to hear it from someone else. Keep it simple.

Simple plans work the best.

For the most part, it doesn’t matter what it’s about; it’s always a good guide. Grand plans usually fail in the first five minutes. Keep it simple.

Want to be a mentor? These days you can’t take an airman to lunch due to COVID. However, you can take them to get lunch and shoot the breeze along the way. Get to know them. Keep it simple.

Are you the second-newest person in your shop? Walk the newest person around. Take an interest. Help them get in-processed. Build a rapport. Study your CDCs together. You’ll learn from each other and have a better time. Perhaps you’ll work together in twenty years. It’s that easy.

Have a shop burger burn. It’ll be great for morale and show you’re motivated and want to get to know people. It doesn’t matter what rank you are, this can be done easily. Maybe the two new people mentioned above want to organize a burger burn for the next drill weekend. Ask your supervisor for approval. Have everyone bring something- or have them contribute cash to pay for it. Make it happen. Keep it simple.

If you’re that supervisor, give them a little guidance and encouragement. You’d be surprised how far it will go. It’s great for team building. Keep it simple.

If you’ve just arrived from tech school, maybe there’s a new process for how to do something or a new form that you learned in school that the rest of the shop doesn’t know anything about. Volunteer to teach a class on it. Everyone will learn from that experience including you. Keep it simple.

Want to be mentored? Perhaps you want to learn something that you’re having difficulty grasping. Turn the tables a little. Find a local subject matter expert and ask them to go get lunch with you. Along the way, ask "Why are you in the Delaware Air Guard?" The answer may surprise you and open some avenues you hadn’t thought about; not just about what you want to learn either. That simple act can lead to a treasure trove of knowledge. It shows you’re interested and want to learn. Keep it simple.

Last year, I was at a funeral with Chief Skilling for a long-retired Aerial Porter. At the celebration of life afterward, we struck up a conversation with a few of our old comrades that had also attended the funeral. MSgt (Ret) Ralph White said the most simple and poignant statement about his leadership. "Two questions- Did I listen to you? Did I treat you fairly? - What more do you need than that?" Ralph was right on the money. It’s still true today. Keep it simple.

If you take care of your airmen, your airmen will take care of you. This isn’t 100% guaranteed, but it’ll get you close. Do your airmen have the tools they need? Clothing? Training? Pay? Feedback? Time off? Rewards? Discipline? Incentives? Guidance? Encouragement? Work on one thing at a time if you have to. Keep it simple.

I was an Air Advisor in Afghanistan in 2015-16. The Afghans we were advising were taught English by contractors and we (USAF) taught them Loadmaster ground school in addition to flying training. I found that by attending both the English and Loadmaster classes (even the ones I wasn’t teaching), I was able to build a better rapport with the students. I learned how to better communicate with the students by using more simple words and phrases. Don’t talk down to people; gauge your audience and tailor yourself accordingly. When speaking with a new-hire or someone outside your organization about how an airdrop works, you need to adapt what you say so you’re not using 100 acronyms. Keep it simple.

Breaking down tasks will increase your chance of success. During that same deployment, there was a need for us to train the Afghans on a cargo delivery method called "Combat Offload, Method-A". We started by building a training plan. Next, we worked with the airport authority to figure out where on the airfield we could do the training. The required equipment was quickly located and training pallets were built up. We arranged for the Afghan version of Small Air Terminal to load and recover the pallets, which had previously been built for training, so even they received training.

In the end, this seemly daunting task had involved members from five partner nations and more people were trained than intended. By breaking it down to simple tasks, it turned into something that was easily executable in a short time. Find ways to keep it simple.

Take simple approaches to issues and turn negatives around. As a Loadmaster Instructor, I’ll often fly with Loadmasters that are newly back from school. One technique I’ll use after the flight is to ask the student to critique themselves. "How do you think you did?" Often, they’ll be more critical of themselves than I would be with them. Sometimes, they’ll be pretty rough on themselves. Be encouraging and offer advice with a brief explanation of what works versus what doesn’t and why. People learn better when you keep it simple.