Trust but Verify

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Erik Bowman
  • Deputy Commander, 45th Launch Group
One of the great things about being in the Air Force is the level of responsibility we get at a very young age. What other jobs in the commercial world would let a 25-year-old Staff Sgt. be responsible for the mission success of a $2B satellite?

What other jobs would let a young lieutenant just out of college be responsible for an $80M aircraft? As a group, we are entrusted with protecting the lives and liberty of our fellow Americans, and we execute deadly force to do so.

We have been given tremendous powers and authorities to execute our mission.

But as Spiderman says, "With great power comes great responsibility". (Yes, I read a lot of comic books when I was younger). We are responsible for ensuring mission success and protecting the public.

When you do the actual work yourself, you are directly responsible for all aspects of the job, but if you are a supervisor or overseeing contractors, it is more difficult. When someone else does the work, there is a tendency to be complacent and blindly accept what others do.

Yet you are still responsible.

You need to make sure the job is being done right. To quote President Reagan, you need to "Trust, but Verify".

How do you do this? The #1 way is to think critically. Avoid taking what is said at face value all the time. Ask probing questions. Get out in the field and observe operations. Break out your old textbook and do some math to check the work.

But you also have to verify what you do yourself. One of the best pieces of advice I've heard came from Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Hal Moore, in the book "We Were Soldiers Once ... And Young".

Every once in a while, you have to ask, "What am I doing that I shouldn't be doing? What am I not doing that I should be doing?" You may find what you are doing (or not doing) is not value-added or effective in accomplishing your mission.