‘Adapt or Perish’

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- If you have deployed to Afghanistan, I suspect you would agree when I say that the motto: adapt or perish; truly captures the general tone of the deployment. Essentially, the phrase provides a level of leadership expectation and guidance as threats of insurgency are real, and failure to adapt could severely impact the mission or have a deadly consequence.

Could this type of leadership expectation integrate with other deployments?

I recently came back from a tour in Qatar, indeed, a 'Ritz-Carlton' environment as compared to Afghanistan. Insurgency, suicide bomber, and an improvised explosive device were not a significant force protection concern...adapt or perish slogan didn't necessarily resonate.

As I reflect back on the deployment, despite the contrast, I realized the saying is as applicable and equally crucial to mission accomplishment. Adaptability and flexibility of expectation is an important skill that Airmen should not take for granted.

To illustrate my point, as the patient administration officer in charge, the first task I was given was to retrieve a medical record for a patient who was seen at a local hospital in Doha, Qatar. In an effort to quickly close a seemingly mundane and easy task, I immediately visited the facility.

Three weeks after my initial visit there, the document was not available and I was told the same alibi from previous weeks. At that point, my boss and I were getting frustrated. It was hard to understand why a three-month old medical encounter was still not transcribed.

As I continually engaged with the hospital, I was eventually told that medical records are simply not an urgent matter. I then realized that our aggravation was due to a misguided expectation or the lack thereof. We were expecting U.S. patient care standards results.

Although the record was eventually received, my aggressive effort was likely perceived negatively. As expeditionary Airmen, we are inevitably subject to other nation's culture and norms, which are beyond our control.

The bottom line is that our ability to adapt and manage expectations are essential elements to effectively execute the mission whether you're in Afghanistan or Qatar...undeniably an important leadership attribute.