Leadership Perspective: Are You an Owner or Renter?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Kelly Harshbarger
  • 8th Civil Engineer Squadron commander
Sometimes, when we are only expecting to be somewhere for a limited time, we start to think of ourselves as just passing through. We think, perhaps, we cannot make much of a difference in such a short time. 

For many, this may be how you perceive your time as a member of the Wolf Pack -- a renter with no incentives to make improvements. If each successive rotation of personnel share this same perspective then it can lead to a downward decay of our work places and quarters. 

I see two areas that can be destructive to Kunsan if not checked: somebody else's problem and a lack of pride in one's own work or living space. We can overcome these by being stewards of the base and taking ownership for its cleanliness and up-keep. While none of us actually hold a deed to the land, we could hold our heads up high for taking care of the assets the American tax-payer has entrusted us with. Stewardship, not apathy or resignation is the key to retaining our pride in Kunsan Air Base. 

Many years ago I read a series of books by Douglas Adams called The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In this series, the author described a cloaking device that worked by making people disregard the item being cloaked as not their problem. He described the effect as being Somebody Else's Problem. 

We can see this phenomenon around us each time someone walks past a piece of garbage on the ground, or fails to correct a safety deficiency they notice along the way. Even as they walk by, they may be thinking to themselves, "what a sty ... somebody should pick that up!" or "that's dangerous ... somebody should do something about that!" 

Similarly, when we go to our respective offices and look around wondering how our predecessors could have allowed the area to become so run down, we might wish somebody would do something about that, too. Clearly we recognize when something is not up to our own standards of excellence, but sometimes we forget we are somebody, too. If each of us, when we got that thought of what somebody should do, decided to be that somebody, we could collectively make a huge difference toward improving the quality of our facilities and living space. You can imagine just how much of a difference it would make if one were to compound a single little act by the population of Kunsan Air Base. 

Deciding to be that somebody willing to help improve the base is something to be proud of, but it's not enough unless we can resolve the root of the breakdown leading to the untidiness, degradation or safety deficiency in the first place. To become better stewards of the base we must demonstrate our pride in our work and living places on a regular basis. We must treat these spaces as our own, and do the best with what we have. Some of you may be living in decades old facilities. 

The reality is fiscal constraints do not allow us to replace facilities as often as we would prefer. You still have the choice to do something to make it better. Perhaps this means doing some self-help projects. Maybe it means going the extra mile to keep it clean. It could also mean staying on top of small repairs as they happen rather than allowing them to accumulate until they are unmanageable. The same can be said for those of you living or working in new facilities. Even though new facilities are easier to keep in great shape, if the occupants don't show pride in ownership, degradation will occur at a rapid rate. When I see people taking great care of an older facility, while others in a newer facility treat it like rental property, I can't help but think the new facility would have been better off in the hands of the conscientious stewards of the former. 

So the question remains: are you a renter or owner? Are you the type of person that is willing to overlook those things within your power to fix because you know you're just passing through and will lower your standards as you bide time? Are you, as an adult old enough to fight for your country, unwilling to part with your expectation that your parents will clean up after you? Are you okay with leaving something you know to be unsafe, that could cause harm to one of your Wolf Pack brethren? Or are you willing to grab the bull by the horns and take advantage of the many opportunities to do little things that add up to make Kunsan a better place for our class and those that follow? Our tax-payers deserve the latter. We in the Wolf Pack are very proud of how well we accomplish the mission and of how hard we play; it's time now to demonstrate our pride as stewards of our home away from home.