Tenets of Defender Performance Optimization
By CMSgt Tamala L. Hartz














What if I told you we were creating a multi-pronged approach to improving the quality of life for our Defenders? For far too long we have focused efforts on equipment, vehicles, and weapons without investing in the system that operates all of these instruments to ‘Defend the Base’. Defenders are the most important aspect of executing the defense of our installations and through Defender Performance Optimization (DPO) we are restructuring multiple efforts into a single venture to invest in our Defenders like the Air Force does a weapons system. DPO is not a program, it is a shift in our Security Forces culture. The focus is to invest early and care for Defenders, so they can reach optimal performance daily in their lives and if needed on the battle field. DPO utilizes optimization related research and emerging technologies to create Defenders who can thrive in a complex, high-tempo environment, as well as succeed in their personal lives.

Every Defender will be introduced to the DPO culture immediately in tech training, followed by in our practices at every duty location. There will be a shift in our practices such as, at guardmount we will take time preparing our bodies for sustained wear of load bearing equipment, we will allow our Defenders to sit down and eat healthy options while posted, we will make time in the schedule for Defender based physical fitness, and we will have a predictable schedule to encourage work/life balance, just to name a few. All of this is great, but we need to share more on how we plan to achieve this optimization.

As a critical component of the Reconstitute Defender Initiative, DPO is using techniques to arm Defenders with the skills and tools needed to reach optimal performance in multiple areas. I will explain a little about some of them to give you an idea of how all of these efforts are linked to each other, and demonstrate when one is not right it will influence another. Collaborating with the Air Force Exercise Science Unit, we are currently developing a physical fitness regimen designed to off-set the physical challenges associated with Security Forces daily duties. This includes exercises and stretching to create the durability to do our job without long term physical impacts. We are also changing our physical fitness assessment to correlate with our operational requirements. This ensures our physical fitness capabilities are directly linked to our ability to perform our job. Next, working with the nutritionists, we are teaching our Defenders how to care for their bodies through eating and drinking the right stuff at the right time. Our Clinical Psychologist is focusing on mind tactics and the effects of central nervous system activation to prepare Defenders mentally for how they will react, feel and cope with the life of a Defender and exposure to stressful situations. Teaming up with the medical community and researchers, another key component of DPO is maximizing sleep and restoration to ensure clarity of thought and good judgment. These and many more aspects of DPO not only help our Defenders survive, but can catapult them to thrive in our community. I have replaced my photo with a visual aid that depicts the linked tenants of DPO.

Finally, our Air Force Senior Leaders recognize the need for this investment in our Defenders and have provided support, funding and commitment to making these efforts a reality. In closing, the amazing Airmen who choose to serve our great nation deserve the best possible efforts to not only make them great Defenders, but stronger and more capable Americans.

As always, thank you for what you do for our country, our Air Force, and our career field.

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