Bringing back the ‘Victory Garden’

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas-- -- During WWII, the entire nation had to come together to achieve victory. Mandatory rationing was the norm to allow the government to ship needed supplies to troops in the field. One example of how this was accomplished was the "Victory Garden." Every family was encouraged to grow a garden for fresh vegetables so the government could make the most of mass purchases for the people in the field. This small act on the household scale made huge contributions on the national level. The same type of thought needs to be applied to the current situation.

Due to the current fiscal crises, we have some hard times ahead. Leadership from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Platoon Sergeants are about to make harder financial decisions than have been made in the past decade, and some of them are not prepared for this task.

The big decisions will be easier (I don't make them, hence easier). Do I want everyone to have new big screens on the wall, or do I want a new platform for ship to shore operations? I am pretty sure what will be decided there. I can almost hear the laughter from supply when you walk in with a request for an LCD big screen when we would be cutting fuel for flight time or ammo for the range to pay for it.

The small unit leadership will be the key, and this is where the issue begins to develop. Before the War on Terror an NCO, Senior NCO, or Junior Officer would have been expected to circular file said request. This would have been followed up with an "on the spot counseling" to remind the service member that unless the (insert service component) issued the unit a big screen, they had to assume it was not a needed item. Also, a dig on your leadership value such as "I wonder why you made such dirtbag NCO's. I guess they were too busy watching TV (drawn out to Teeeeveeee) to train" would be added for emphasis.

The problem is this, and it goes for every service, we forgot how to say no to things that may be good, but not part of the mission. For over 10 years, if you were able to find a sticky note and a copy of a quote it was yours. The Supply Officer was like a 23 year old Santa if you were about to deploy, or figure out a way to make it a morale related issue. The big screen became less a thing to watch movies on but more of a measure of your dedication to your personnel. The bigger the screen, the more you cared; the better the recreation building, the more you cared. It became harder and harder to say no because, and being honest here, we traded personnel like baseball cards from unit to unit to fill out our manning requirements. Mission came first and always will, but we backed it up with a quality of life that is almost unbelievable when compared to the 90s.

Now is the hard part, the word no is going to be heard again and so many of the ones saying no will have never heard it in this context before. It will be an unequivocal no; not a maybe later no or a next quarter no, but a not ever no. The financial challenge for our senior leadership is to make million and billion dollar decisions. The challenge for us is to make them count at the platoon and company level by policing our local expenses to more of the needed and less of the wanted.

The future will be leaner for all of us. A return to fiscal responsibility is, at this point, a moral decision. As stewards of the public trust, we are going to have to make hard, unpopular and unhappy decisions where the choice is either bad or worse. Freedom is not free but neither is anything else. The same level of professionalism and commitment exhibited daily by our service members in harm's way will have to be applied to financial issues. Anything less will leave our future as a military out of our hands.