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AFMA commander: 'do what's right, stay ready'

  • Published
  • By Jon Hanson
  • Air Force Personnel, Services and Manpower Public Affairs
For more than 28 years Col. Brian Norman has been able to do what he always wanted to do -- serve his country.

As his Jan. 27 retirement ceremony approaches, the Dexter, Mo., native has taken time to pass on some advice to those who continue to serve.

The colonel said he only had a few key goals when he started his career. He wanted to learn to be a solid officer, get his master's degree, make the rank of captain and serve "God and Country" as his first calling.

"Honestly, I didn't think I would hang in there for a career," Norman said. "But I really got vested in the Air Force and I have no regrets about that."

The colonel said he wished he could have continued to renew and energize the Air Force's manpower and management engineering capability.

"Without useful manpower determinants and current manpower documents, the concept of 'right person, right place, right time' is hard to achieve," Norman said. "Stewardship of precious manpower is key as the Air Force invests over a third of the budget on human resources."

These fundamentals helped form what he sees as his biggest accomplishments.

"Most of what I've had the pleasure of getting done has been through teamwork," Norman said. "We did gigantic wall-to-wall studies to optimize all aerial ports back in my Military Airlift Command days -- that was cool, culminating with right-sizing the global reach lay-down for Desert Shield/Storm."

During that time he said they looked at every major aerial port in the Air Force and did a cross-pollination of benchmarking of best practices.

"We took a hand-picked team of experts and anywhere we saw cool things they were doing we documented in detail and shared them with the next port," he said. "By the time we were done, we had 221 cool ideas. We then turned around and published all these ideas. We also rewrote their regulations.

"That is what made me, as a captain, want to stay in, because we were doing things that made a difference in the mission -- you were out there with the mission folks doing it," he said. "It wasn't necessarily us doing that, it was us harvesting all the best ideas they had in a fashion where we could multiply it throughout the Air Force."

During his career, the colonel said he shared four bits of advice he believes fit everyone.

Be future focused -- have the vision and energy to get yourself and the team where we need to be in the months and years ahead, but obtain an authentic understanding and appreciation for the past. It is foundational. It's hard not to run in circles if you don't really know where you've been and why. Our air, space and cyber competencies are all based on continuous innovation; but wise stewardship along with enduring principles and values help us achieve the mission, too.

Don't ever be overwhelmed by a challenge -- break it into workable parts and get going.

Always seek to do what's right -- by the mission, by the people, by our ethical foundations. And, whenever you fall short of that, do what you can to get it right -- get back up and do what is right.

Stay ready; be proactive -- think about what your boss or the team needs, and provide things before being asked. Our whole mission is to be personally and professionally ready to serve our nation any time, any place. So charge ahead where your efforts are needed and be ready to jump in and serve in any contingency.

He couldn't have accomplished all that he did without those around him, he said.

"I give a huge thank you to the many tremendous coworkers, mentors and humble but incredible folks out there that I've had the pleasure to serve with," Norman said. "Life comes at us mighty fast. If there's something in your heart you need to be doing, get started now and remember to take others along with you.

"The phrase 'Carpe Diem,' or 'seize the day,' is a challenge to us all, to get out there and make the most of each day that God gives us. Go work out, keep learning, help somebody, make a difference -- your life and those around you will be richer for it."