Excellence in all we do

  • Published
  • By Col. Hans H. Miller
  • 96th Test Group commander

 "We better be prepared to dominate the skies above the surface of the earth or be prepared to be buried beneath it."

    --Gen. Carl A. (Tooey) Spaatz, the Air Force's first Chief of Staff


Make no mistake; we are here to be ready to dominate the skies above the earth to support our national defense. Whether you work contracting, civil engineering, remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) training, F-16 training, testing future systems or any number of other critical mission functions, we are ultimately here for our national defense and for each other. The core value of excellence in all we do is central to our success as individuals, as a unit, and as an air force.


This quote from Gen. Spaatz is one of the first quotes you see at the Air Force Memorial near Washington, DC. If you have not been to the Air Force Memorial, it is impressive and worth a visit.  As you enter, your gaze almost immediately follows three spires to the heavens. The three spires symbolize our core values of:  integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.


Below are some of the quotes on excellence from the Air Force Memorial:


The future is always decided by those who put their imagination to work, who challenge the unknown, and who are not afraid to risk failure.

--General Bernard A. Shriever


The power of excellence is overwhelming.  It is always in demand and nobody cares about its color.

--General Daniel 'Chappie' James  


That commitment to excellence is more than desirable; in the profession of arms, it's essential.  Lives depend on the fact that we maintain high standards.

--General Michael E. Ryan  


So what do we mean by excellence? It does not mean perfection in everything. It does not mean we must have success in every endeavor. Sometimes we will fall short, and sometimes a test will fail. The real test of excellence is what happens next. Do we learn?  Do we adapt?  Do we adjust?  When we succeed, do we ask ourselves, can we do it better next time? Excellence in all we do is about developing a sustained passion for continual improvement and innovation.

At the start of the U.S. bombing offensive in 1942, then Col. Curtis Lemay was a new group commander. At that time, we were losing bombers and their crews at an unsustainable rate. In addition to the high losses, the bombers were missing their targets and having to fly costly missions against the same targets over and over. Bombers were constantly maneuvering to "avoid" the flack right up to the bomb release, giving the navigator and bombardier no time to set up for an accurate release. Lemay was a good mathematician and realized correctly that a level bomber would get hit by the flack just as easily as a maneuvering bomber; in fact, the maneuvering bomber might have a higher chance of getting hit because it was in the flack area longer. Flying level also gave time to accurately fly to and aim on the target. He trained his crews hard in these new tactics. When they flew with the new tactics, the crews had fewer losses and hit more targets.  His pursuit of excellence, of not accepting the way it was and pursuing improvements, saved lives and led to success.

There are numerous other historical examples of the pursuit of innovation and constant improvement, but we also see that history is being made today. The success of RPAs in the skies over Afghanistan did not happen just because of a capable airframe, but because of innovative operators. These operators thought of new tactics, and learned how to adapt and effectively target the enemy. On the north side of Holloman AFB is the Holloman High Speed Test Track. There they have set the world speed record with a sled run that went 6,453 mph to test warheads for tomorrow's missiles. This only happened because of Airmen, both military and civilian, who were passionate in their pursuit of learning, innovating, and improving on the technologies of the past.

Excellence in all we do is also on a personal level. When it comes to your fitness, do you look at just passing the test or do you set goals to improve on your previous performance?  In your education, do you seek out training opportunities and not just do them, but also truly strive to learn to improve yourself? When it comes to security, did you take that extra second to ensure the safe was locked or that you encrypted that email with critical information? Excellence at the personal level matters: it matters for your health, and it matters to your fellow airmen who count on you to do your job.

Excellence in all we do is a core value that is not about a single act but an approach to life. It is about having that passion inside of you for continual improvement and innovation. It is about having that passion at both the professional and personal level. 

You do make a difference and excellence in all you do matters for your own future, it matters to your fellow airmen who rely on you, it matters to your unit and most importantly it matters to our nation. Excellence in all we do is a core value because we need your passion to ensure we continue to dominate the skies and serve our nation to the best of our ability.