‘Excellence Starts Here’

by Lt. Col. Phil Tucker
86th Operations Support Squadron commander

I am fortunate to command the 86th Operations Support Squadron, a unit made up of Airmen who perform eight diverse Air Force specialties, but who share a common vision — to deliver unequalled operations support focused on standards, rooted in excellence and dedicated to service. Proudly emblazoned on our squadron patch, right above our Knight mascot’s profile, is our squadron slogan, “Excellence Starts Here.”

As Airmen, we are fortunate that in 1997 the secretary of the Air Force, the honorable Sheila Widnall, and the 15th chief of staff, Gen. Ronald Fogleman, developed and made permanent our core values of “Integrity First,
Service Before Self and Excellence in All We Do.”

I believe these core values lie within any citizen willing to fight and die for our great nation; however, they are inculcated by their practice. Since these leaders boldly declared, “This is who we are,” our core values have endured to become the bedrock of our service. They give us something upon which to always find stability, something universal and unchanging in a world and society that is seemingly in constant movement and transition. When faced with a difficult decision or when it would be easy to cut corners, the core values stand as pillars, supporting our service and our resilience. They provide clarity in a world that is often blurred with conflicting perspectives. Our values serve as beacons vectoring us back to a path of professional conduct. The core values are ours. They represent us. We, as individual Airmen, and in the collective as an Air Force, represent them.

The OSS directly supports our wing’s mission of providing combat airlift and operating the Air Force’s premier installation to enable and assure strategic capabilities. OSS Airmen ensure flyers’ aeronautical orders are valid, making them “legal” to fly, and we provide scheduling for 15,000 annual flight hours in five different aircraft types.

Our training and tactics Airmen ensure all flyers have the expertise and know-how to employ their aircraft and execute all facets of the mission, including combating a survival, evasion, resistance or escape scenario. Joint airdrop inspectors work side-by-side with the 86th Logistics Readiness Squadron Aerial Delivery section to ensure cargo airdrops executed by the 37th Airlift Squadron extract and deploy safely.

Aircrew flight equipment ensures every piece of life-saving equipment on all 26 locally assigned aircraft is in perfect condition and primed to do its part to serve a crewmember in the time of need.

Intel specialists brief flight crews before and after missions and ensure wing senior leaders are kept up-to-date on all intel concerns that pose a risk to the 53,000 American citizens who call the KMC home.

OSS weather Airmen deliver weather support to the wing’s flying mission, but among other support they provide, they’re weighing in on whether you’ll test inside or out on your next fitness assessment. Finally, airfield operations, through airfield management, radar control and the Air Traffic Control tower, enables the airlift mission and provides a safe and effective “Gateway to Eurasia, Africa and the Middle East” airfield to assure strategic capabilities.

Much like the foundational support our core values lend us as Airmen, the OSS provides the underpinning for our wing’s mission — 86th Airlift Wing Excellence Starts Here (in the OSS).

Despite the incredible diversity of the OSS and of our Air Force, the some 600,000 active duty, Guard and Reserve, and civilians who make up the Air Force family share the core values as the common ground upon which we all proudly stand. While it’s easy to spout off the core values, the taller task lies in embracing and living by them.

The next time you boldly recite or ponder our values, consider “Excellence Starts Here.” It is incumbent upon every Airman of every rank in every specialty to be excellent. If one member of the OSS does not strive for and achieve excellence in training, customer service, process improvement and execution, our wing’s mission is jeopardized. If any one of the eight flights of the OSS fails to deliver, the mission fails.

The same rings true for your organization. The contribution of every Airman and civilian matters. For any organization to deliver excellence, individuals must deliver it, too.

So, the next time you utter the core value of “Excellence in All We Do,” remember, “Excellence Starts Here” — with you!