Continuity and progress - building on tradition to improve

  • Published
  • By Col. Joseph Wiley
  • 62nd Operations Group commander
The Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset wrote in his important work, "Toward a Philosophy of History":

Man's real treasure is the treasure of his mistakes, piled up stone by stone through thousands of years ... Breaking the continuity with the past, wanting to begin again, is a lowering of man and a plagiarism of the orangutan. It was a Frenchman, Dupont-White, who around 1860 had the courage to exclaim, 'Continuity is one of the rights of man; it is a homage of everything that distinguishes him from the beast'."

Continuity in our Air Force is manifested in our traditions and heritage. It is the foundation of our organization's success. The sacrifices and achievements of the past set the expectations for continued standards of excellence.

One of our duties as military professionals is continuous improvement of our body of knowledge and intellectual ideas regarding the nature of warfare and our contribution to our chosen vocation. As military professionals, we respect the continuity our doctrine, regulations and instructions provide for us. The contemporary author Samuel Huntington notes in "The Soldier and the State":

"In the military view, man learns only from experience. If he has little opportunity to learn from his own experience, he must learn from the experience of others."

This statement implies that continuity is not incongruous with progress. Our Air Force places great stock in providing its personnel with the opportunity to study and learn their craft. Taking advantage of that opportunity is the mark of a professional. Whether looking to the past to study the traditions that form the strong foundation our service is built upon, or gaining experience through individual activity or collective learning in venues such as Squadron Officer School or Airman Leadership School, the true professional is always seeking to improve their craft.

Take time each day to polish your professionalism through study and discussion. Engage with your contemporaries, subordinates and superiors. Relish the opportunity to learn from the past and from other's experience. Forge your own way ahead by honing a new vision of what our Air Force can become. With a disciplined habit of study and continuous desire for improvement, every Airman can better their organization. Make your effort count and challenge the maxim of Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery that, "Change is inevitable. Progress is not inevitable."