Smart Summer Strategy: Offense or Defense? A Timeless Question

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- Winning strategies seem to come in all shapes and sizes ... "the best defense is good offense" often attributed to heavyweight prize fighter Jack Dempsey. Others opine that "defense is the best offense."

If you dig around, you can find opposing views on types of strategies, such as my personal favorite, the "prevent defense" successfully executed by the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos but disdained by legendary coach John Madden, who once mentioned "All a prevent defense does is prevent you from winning."

Faced with such contradictory advice, it's easy to see how developing a smart summer strategy can be tough. I suspect all of these strategies will work. In this case, the strategy may not be the key. Maybe it's all in the planning. Planning is all about thinking, and if we're looking for advice on a framework, you just can't go wrong with Karl von Clausewitz.

Military history buffs know Karl all too well. The 19th century Prussian general is best known for his seminal work "On War," and is often cited as the "father of warfare strategy." This summer, I'd like to declare war on injuries, and it turns out Karl has some advice for us along these lines.

"War is not an exercise of the will directed at an inanimate matter." Summer presents us with a wide array of activities, scenarios, and lots ways to find ourselves en route to the ER. Karl would advise us to keep in mind that nothing in our plans can rely on a static environment. Expect the unexpected!

"Everything in war is very simple. But the simplest thing is difficult." High temps, long days, and a strong temptation to cram as much fun as possible into a single day ... all the ingredients you need for a bad outcome. Take the time to think about the risks in your plan, and look at where you can simplify the order of the day to help keep things manageable.

"Many intelligence reports in war are contradictory; even more are false, and most are uncertain." Clausewitz was not a big fan of his Intel Officer, and if you think you can predict everything that could go wrong this summer, you might not end up where you'd like.

Karl reminds us that here in middle Tennessee, weather can change quickly, traffic can pile up suddenly and that boat that you were sure was going to turn left might just turn right. Don't rely entirely on what you thought was going to happen ... have a backup plan at the ready!

Fortunately, we came through our first "test" (Memorial Day Weekend) unscathed. Our neighbors in the surrounding communities did not ... a death on Lake Normandy, numerous reports of accidents and "close calls" on Tims Ford, and across Tennessee, 10 fatal traffic incidents - four on motorcycles and six in cars. The Highway Patrol had the difficult task of informing three families that their loved one was killed in a traffic accident and was not wearing a seat belt.

The base is not immune though as we found out Monday evening, when a man not affiliated with AEDC drowned at the Gossick Leadership Center beach. There was no lifeguard on duty and according to fellow swimmers who had returned to shore, he chose to swim alone. That combination of factors proved fatal and a sunny day at the beach ended on a dark note.

We are now in what the USAF calls "the 101 critical days of summer." Supervisors play a key role in setting the tone in their workplaces, and have a strong influence on how their team members spend time away from AEDC. All of us need to build our own "Smart Summer" plans.

Think "critically" about what you are about to do, and we'll continue are strong history of keeping our team intact over the summer months. Offense, defense, or a little of both, let's make Karl proud!