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ENJJPT: A synthesis of skills, organization, diversity (Commentary)

Commentary graphic

Commentary graphic (U.S. Air Force graphic by John Ingle)

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – The purpose of the 80th Flying Training Wing is to train and develop the best fighter pilots in the world, in service to 14 NATO nations. Since its birth in 1981, the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program here has trained over 8,000 pilots, with a cadence of about 200 every year. A surprising number to say the least.

This program is certainly not comparable to that of a mere business company, as the latter carries out its activity to achieve a purely economic result through following a cost/benefit analysis.

Similar to all companies, ENJJPT’s "final product" objective requires an investment for production, but can it be said that its benefits have immediate effects? Definitely not. The result has a human value, but the profits are not instantly tangible. It is a resource that will bring advantages only in the future. It is important to consider the quantity obtained over a certain period of time to compare each pilot to a single "product.” But above all, quality is the key factor to give a real meaning to the whole process.

If it is framed in this context, the training system has characteristics similar to those of a company with a complex nature, which in order to produce a high-value asset, needs to integrate as much as possible the combination of three types of capital: Human, organizational and relational.

The human capital is related to the skills, talents and know-how necessary to successfully follow the activities planned or required by the system. Every company needs competent personnel who participate in the production processes. If the Ferrari did not have its six competent mechanics trained and able to work as a team, how would it do in a pit stop during a Formula 1 race in Austin? In the ENJJPT program, the team is made up of all the flight instructors selected by individual nations, suitable to provide an advanced level of performance.

Organizational capital represents the specific way by which the enterprise produces. It consists purely of organizational models, communication tools, procedures, standards and instructions. All these processes require skills and implementation time, but once they are consolidated, they will bring a company to an optimal level of production and efficiency. What would have happened if during the last Super Bowl the Tampa Bay Buccaneers players had not known their roles and had attacked without receiving communications and instructions during the game? Would they have dominated the Kansas City Chiefs with a 31-9 victory? They would certainly have failed, unable to coherently work as a team.

Finally, relational capital is made up of that set of relationships established between the various actors within an organization. At Sheppard AFB, we have a sense of trust and reciprocal respect pursuing the same goal, and the sharing of culture and values among 14 nations.  Here, this factor is undoubtedly a strong point and "diversity management" is fully applied. Inside the ENJJPT building, thanks to the integration of about 300 flight instructors and more than 230 aspiring pilots, a highly competitive advantage is obtained daily. This is due to types of diversity such as nationality, culture, propensity, character and professional experiences.

It is appropriate to say that like any organization of excellence, even for ENJJPT, the essence of success lies precisely in the collective ability of all the professionals, instructors and students who work there daily, to create value.