Sunday, March 19, 2006

I Screamed, "Eyes Left"

A personal example of disagreeing and committing is from the United States Air Force. I was stationed at RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom from 1985 to 1994. Early 1985, we were being instructed in aircraft load planning and participating in a simulated training for loading a C-5 aircraft for deployment. During this instruction we were being directed to load a C-5 aircraft. This aircraft was invisible much like Wonder Woman’s plane. We began the staging of air ground equipment weighing thousands of pounds (not invisible) and we prepared the cargo for loading.

The team began to push heavy equipment to the rear of the simulated plane, when we were loudly interrupted by our leader. To protect the leader we will call him “Nap.” His direction on this memorable day was inconceivable. Unfortunately, we were being directed to load a C-5 aircraft through the side of the airplane, in case you are unfamiliar with a C-5, it can only be loaded through the tail or nose opening. As an Airmen, one of my nicknames was “little General,” as I would openly and vocally disagree. So I stopped the simulation and questioned my superior as to the simulated process, pointing out the chalked plane has no cargo openings on the sides and that we should proceed to load from the rear. I was immediately told in a loud voice to “Just Do it.” So as a subordinate, I proceeded to thrust heavy air ground equipment through the air frame of the C-5. Humorously wondering to myself the whole time on how the simulated plane would ever be able to get off the ground on take off with no metal siding.

After the training, I was openly chewed up and spit out. In addition, as a price for my questioning and assumed insubordination, I spent hours marching up and down the beautiful green airfield. However, in my opinion it was all worth it. Challenging the status quo is the only way to go. I had voiced my disagreement and then committed to the task (directed, or not) by loading a C-5 through the aircraft’s air frame.

In recognition of this event, I documented a humorous corporate narrative called “Eye’s Left.” Military formations use “Eye’s Right” to align the troops. I used “Eye’s Left” to call out the humor in the simulated training, the lack of openness to ideas, and challenge of the status quo. Everyone I worked with on this simulation still remembers the day we call “Eyes Left.”

Hind sight is 20/20 and it teaches us good lessons. Be open to appropriate use of disagreement, be open to change, be able to commit to the task even if you are not listened too. As I worked my way through the ranks my nickname went from Little General to General Nuisance. I am proud to be able to contribute, even if it is a nuisance.

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