YOUR REPLACEMENT - 6 June 2013
Beaver Lake - Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
I have spent my entire career being the best darn aviator I could possibly be. Every step of the way, whether it was a new training program or an everyday flight, I tried to put my best foot forward. It was in my nature to try to be as good as I could possibly be. Early in my career, I was singularly focused on this commitment. I would choose the right training program. I would shoot for the special missions. I would volunteer for anything that was unique. If there was a task to be done, especially if flying was involved--no matter how mundane--I was first in line to volunteer. That was how I rolled and it clearly served me very well. Then, a few years before I retired from the USAF something dawned on me. If I spend all my time making myself better, where is my replacement coming from? Who is going to take my place? I had to do my part.
Of course, conceptually I know there is a never ending cycle of new trainees taking the place of those who leave service. One leaves, another more or less takes his place. I'll call this process a "continuity of replacement." Of course, I know how it works. What didn't dawn on me was my role in the informal training that takes place outside of formal courses. You see, there is so much to learn from simple experience outside of courses. I believe you become a much better aviator from first hand practical experiences than you do from formal training. I believe the real learning happens after you graduate from your initial formal courses. The real learning happens through the application of all you've learned. My epiphany was, "Who is mentoring my replacement?"
Along with that realization was this thought: If I was always the guy picked to do the most difficult and complex aviation tasks, when would the other younger guys learn what I learned? If I soaked up all the opportunities, when would the youngsters get their opportunities? I was good at these complex/special missions because I had good sense and tremendous experience. If the younger guys with good sense couldn't get the experience, how could we expect the continuity of replacement process to work? It couldn't. Which leads me to now.
Nowadays, I make a conscious effort to pass on the "good deals" to the younger guys. I try to task my younger crewmates with solving problems as much as possible, versus me doing it. Most of the time this means I have to teach these young aviators how to do what I'm tasking them to do. Sure, it would be less effort on my part if I simply did it on my own without the teaching session. In fact, it might be done better and with more reliability. But, if I solved all the problems and never empowered anyone else to get stuff done, how could I expect anyone to take the reins when it's time for me to hang it up?
Of course, I mean this metaphysically. I will not be training my direct replacement. I can only contribute to the "system" at large by teaching and tasking young'uns as much as possible. By contributing to the system, I'm hoping it is that much better in the end.
I've taken this a bit further by chastising other old-heads when they "get it done" on their own instead of making the effort to teach - and then depend upon - our young'uns. I know this idea takes more effort. I know it won't be as good as if we had done the things ourselves. But, if we never teach anyone else, then how can we expect anyone to step in when us old guys aren't available?
If you are an experienced aviator, you have lessons to teach our community's newest members. If you don't have young'uns around, there are plenty of other opportunities. Contributing to those with less experience is a primary motivation for me to write for Karlene's blog. Through the magic of the internet, I have an opportunity to make this contribution. I figure I have a community responsibility to pass on some of the experience and lessons I've learned over the last 30 years. After all, an old fart helped me out early in my career. I should do the same.
epic trip to yellowstone may 2013river