Operation GRIT: Resiliency The USAFE-AFAFRICA Way
by U.S. Air Forces Tech. Sgt. Rachel Waller
December 12, 2018
As part of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s revitalizing the squadron initiative, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa rolled out Operation GRIT beginning September and October 2018.
Operation GRIT is a holistic approach to strengthen resiliency, reinforce protective factors and reduce unwanted behaviors through deliberate and meaningful personal and professional development from commanders and supervisors.
“We are not reselling, we’re not remarketing. We’re not repackaging, we’re not rebranding,” said Raymond Strasburger, USAFE-AFAFRICA deputy chief of staff. “What we have been given the opportunity to do is to revolutionize the way that the Air Force handles these topics. More specifically, how USAFE-AFAFRICA is going to do this.”
Operation GRIT gives command teams across USAFE the time and tools to foster a culture of professionalism while focusing on the Air Force core values, creating a sense of shared purpose and making strong connections. The initiative focuses on commanders and supervisors at every level to actively engage with their subordinates.
“[Operation] GRIT is not compliance based. This is about connecting Airmen together, connecting their families, connecting them to their heritage, the mission and to the broader Air Force,” said Strasburger. “If we are connected, and really connected to our core values, to our mission, our heritage and most importantly to each other, why would I ever put a fellow Airman in danger? If I am connected to you, if I look at you as part of my family we wouldn’t have the things we have. The goal is to create the connections.”
Operation GRIT utilizes monthly professional development discussions, called “Check 6,” focusing on the Warrior Ethos and the Air Force core values through professional development of Airmen. Each discussion will include synchronized topics from the USAFE commander, but tailored by supervisors to make it relevant and beneficial to their Airmen.
To help facilitate this, for approximately 15-30 minutes each month in already pre-existing meetings like guard mount, roll call or staff meetings, Airmen at all levels and their supervisors will focus on essential character traits: core values, perseverance, courage, resilience, and the warrior ethos.
“A lot of thought was put in to each theme so they will work like building blocks,” said Krystal Shiver, USAFE-AFAFRICA community support program manager. “We’ll start with one theme and build upon it. It’s a grassroots effort ensuring every Airman knows they are vital to the mission. It’s outside the box from the compliance versus collaborative mindset.”
Previously in 2017, USAFE Airmen spent 650,000 hours on resiliency and violence prevention training alone. With Operation GRIT it’ll reduce training hours to 90,000 or about an 86 percent reduction across the command.
Capt. Bradford Shields, USAFE-AFAFRICA Civil Engineer European Operations Officer-in-Charge, explained that GRIT doesn’t stand for anything but instead it’s about the culture.
“GRIT is what our culture is,” said Shields. “GRIT is what we are working to build; Gritty Airmen. It’s an all-encompassing initiative including professional and leadership development to focus on building Airmen. It’s not a one-size fits all program. In order for this to work, commanders and supervisors must have active and sustained engagement.”
Operation GRIT was born in November 2017 after a USAFE community action board meeting when the wing command teams across USAFE challenged the community support teams to analyze current initiatives to ensure current trainings were meeting the needs of USAFE Airmen, explained Shiver.
Shiver and her team held a Rapid Improvement Event with 40 Airmen from all ranks, Air Force specialty codes and levels of leadership from across USAFE, Air Force Personnel Center and other community program personnel from other major commands.
“The RIE members met for a week and considered everything from laws, policies, helping agencies and programs, and tools that currently exist. This review laid the foundation for helping us build the new USAFE-AFAFRICA way ahead,” said Shiver.
The overall goal of Operation GRIT is to have Airmen who embody the Air Force core values and demonstrate them through their behaviors daily.
“When you arrive to USAFE, you are a USAFE Airman, you are a USAFE Warrior, and we all fight, we all push forward and overcome adversity; that’s GRIT,” said Shields. “That’s a Gritty Airman. That is Operation GRIT.”