INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --
Grit… what is grit? The word brings thoughts of courage, resolve and strength of character, according to the major command U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa.
Using this definition, USAFE-AFAFRICA has pushed forward with an initiative called Operation GRIT. It is an innovative way of improving military culture, creating safer communities and developing productive Airmen, the MAJCOM says on its website.
“Operation GRIT is not a program; it is not an acronym,” said Valencia Barnes, 39th Air Base Wing violence prevention integrator. “GRIT stands for ‘gritty Airmen.’ It’s USAFE’s way of connecting Airmen to the mission, to USAFE and to the broader Air Force heritage.”
USAFE-AFAFRICA’s GRIT mission revolves around the concepts of valuing, mentoring, investing in and listening to Airmen. It is based upon the principle that people who feel valued are more likely to commit to their mission.
“Every Airman should share in the changes and success of their workplace,” the MAJCOM’s website states. “Every leader is responsible for reinforcing important messages such as core values, risk factors for suicide, bystander intervention, belonging in the workplace, respect, team work, etc. throughout the year.”
Operation GRIT involves discussion topics for each month, called “Check 6.” As the name suggests, Check 6 involves six talking points.
“These talking points are designed to be talked about within the unit,” Barnes said. “Leaders talk to their people about the topic of the month—it’s open, honest dialogue. Leaders have to be vulnerable with their Airmen, and the hope is to build a connection within the unit.”
For the month of September, the topic is “The Caring Warrior.”
“We are all each other’s wingmen,” said U.S. Air Force Col. John Hawkins, 39th Air Base Wing vice commander. “We have to look out for our teammates and support each other. Behind this uniform, we are all human—we burn out and experience the same stress, fatigue and emotional roller coasters as everyone else. It is my hope that Operation GRIT will open doors to more candid discussions, and bolster our resilience.”
Barnes added that for Operation GRIT to work, Airmen of all ranks must be involved in ensuring each member of their team participates in open dialogue. More than that, they must do their part in making their wingmen feel like they are an essential part of the mission.
“When people feel connected, they feel cared for,” she said. “When Airmen are cared for, they feel valued. When you feel valued, you’re more committed to your team because you know that you’re important to them.”