Zen and the Art of Aircraft Maintenance

  • Published
  • By Col. Roger H. Westermeyer
  • Ogden Air Logistics Center Director of Contracting
As a contracting officer and before that an ICBM missile operator, the world of maintenance was foreign to me until a few years ago. As an operator, all I cared about was whether the weapon system was operating 24/7/365, no questions asked. I gave little thought to the amount of hard work and dedication necessary to keep a 35-year-old missile system on alert, nor did I fully grasp the level of effort required to keep aging aircraft mission capable.

Having previously served in the Operations Group, Logistics Group and Mission Support Group, and now serving on the Ogden Air Logistics Center staff, I have been amazed at the professionalism and sacrifice of both acquisition and maintenance personnel who keep an aging fleet of weapon systems at or near the Air Force standard for mission capability. This is especially impressive considering the shortage of funding and the increasing age of our weapon systems, with many systems more than 40 years old. Whether it's working out on the flightline launching, catching and fixing aircraft in all-weather conditions, overhauling systems in the depot or executing weapon system modifications and upgrades to extend service life, all are done here with remarkable pride and excellence. This excellence was recently reflected in the results of an Air Force Materiel Command Headquarters Logistics Compliance Assessment Team (LCAT) inspection where the OO-ALC did very well. It is also reflected in the numerous AFMC, Air Combat Command and Air Force awards that the OO-ALC and its tenant organization personnel win on a regular basis.

In the classic novel "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," the author, Robert M. Pirsig, wrote that, "Peace of mind comes from caring about what you are doing. All work, every job, in some way or fashion, makes the world a better place. Find meaning in that. Find out how what you do makes the world a better place, and dwell on that contribution." Maintainers, suppliers, supporters and acquirers should heed this advice because what they do indeed makes the world a better place. The Air Force, Department of Defense and our global strategic partners could not do their mission without maintainers and mission capable weapon systems.

If you step back for a moment, you realize that this invaluable lesson applies to all members of Team Hill. In isolation, one individual may not appear to have a "vital" role, but in reality, they are part of the system that makes the OO-ALC and its tenant organizations perform like a well-oiled machine. Just as each nut and bolt on a motorcycle or an aircraft contributes to the smooth operation of that system, every member of Team Hill contributes to the success of the center and ultimately the United States Air Force. All maintainers, personnelists, security providers, contracting and financial specialists, acquirers, logisticians, transporters, suppliers, engineers, medical professionals, administrators, communicators, service providers, operators and others are all key cogs in the system that provides expeditionary combat power to combatant commanders worldwide. Additionally, many who traditionally provided indirect support to the warfighter are now at the forefront of operations helping to rebuild and stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, which is essential to success in those countries and the contingency efforts there. So if you wake up in the morning wondering whether your job matters the answer is an unequivocal and resounding, "YES!"

So as we celebrate the center's many successes I want to say hats off to all of Team Hill for a job well done. Every member of the OO-ALC and its tenant organizations should reflect back on our accomplishments and say, "I was a part of that success." There isn't a more important job in the world today than defending our country and the noble principles we stand for.