By Major Van Harl USAF Ret
Wisconsin --(Ammoland.com)- Back when the Colonel was stationed at Altus AFB, Oklahoma I was attending the local gun show, when the person I was with got a call directing him to get back to the Air Force base ASAP.
There was a fire burning off the south end of the air base headed for the perimeter fence. Southwest Oklahoma had gone for over 120 days with no measurable precipitation (sounds like now), and everything was dried up and waiting to burn. It was unseasonably warm and there were winds up to fifty MPH blowing.
All flying operations were shut down, so the flight line fire fighting equipment and personal could be dispatched off base to support the local fire department. The fire damaged the power system to the base and by mid-afternoon the entire base was without electricity. At first you did not even notice it. It was a very warm and sunny Sunday, with Sunday being the important factor here.
Being an Air Force training base, routinely there is no flying training on Sunday. Had this fire happened in the middle of a training week, it would have created issues going all the way up to Air Staff.
In the military, training never stops and an unforeseen interruption of that training adversely impacts schedules that were set up years ago. We call it the training pipeline.
You push raw recruits straight off the streets of civilian life into this pipeline and on a set schedule you produce a new pilot, cop or medic. Where that new troop is going to be stationed after successfully completing training is also already factored in. Military training is a business and just like the civilian world there is an established process that is followed in order to produce the correct “widget” on time and to needed specifications. In the military’s case the “widget” is a Solider, Marine, Sailor or Airman.
The military got into total quality management (TQM) back in the early 1990s. One of the first things you learn in TQM is everything is a process and your goal it to improve that process. Make it better for the people in the military who daily work these processes. In order to improve the process you have to learn and establish that you have a profound understanding of the process.
Wal-Mart is an excellent civilian example of a company that has a profound understanding of a process. Their process is getting consumer items manufactured in a timely manner and then on the shelves for the buying public to purchase. Make it all happen and do it just-in-time to meet the needs of the consumer. A consumer runs the spectrum of the shopper at a grocery store, to the Department of Defense buying tanks & planes and training new troops.
There is an old saying, “it runs like a well oiled machine”, the machine being a correctly functioning process. But what happens if the process is interrupted either by accident or on purpose? The fire damaged the flow of electricity and stopped the base cold. I am going to assume it was an accident, but what if it wasn’t What “if” someone planned to set the fire as a terrorist training exercise, to see just how much damage to military operations one little match could produce.
It was a warm day when the fire occurred, but what “if” instead of Altus AFB in sunny Oklahoma it was Minot AFB in freezing North Dakota? The power went off and daily life changed in that moment. It was a little spooky walking the streets of base housing in total darkness. Imagine if the power issue was for the entire Oklahoma City metro area and it went off for days because the “bad guys” had severely damaged the power distribution system for that city.
With the base power off my entire evening routine was completely disrupted and I was prepared for it. Back then (and now) I had lanterns, candles, flashlights and even a generator, all items I later was to lend my parents, twice in 30 days. Now that I live in Milwaukee and they live just below the state line in only state in the Union that does not have a concealed carry law, I can assist them. So I drive down to help in time of need.
This time there was no gas for 20 miles, so I had to bring that also. Last year they had two major week-long power outages in the Northern Chicago area in 95 degree heat. Al-Quaida is not just guys dressed from the 1700s living in caves, they have people who understand and plan to exploit our just-in-time supply system. Cut off the power or stop the supply chain and truly all emergencies become local.
It does not matter if it is a hurricane off New York City or a person with a strange sounding name, of foreign origin, if either causes your power to go out for an extended period you will suffer.Major Van Harl USAF Ret.
About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:
Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret. , is a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. Now retired, these days he enjoys camping, traveling, volunteering with the Girl Scouts and writing. firstname.lastname@example.org