Tag Archives: communication

Communicate: the third pillar of the USAF Band of the West

By Senior Airman Daniel N. Thrower
United States Air Force Band of the West

As an Airman, I have communicated to active duty personnel, veterans and civilians in ways that military members at large will never do. A politician or statesman may be an extraordinary keynote speaker, but a two-striper enlisted musician experiences countless unique missions connecting with audiences using the “universal language” of music.

Continue reading Communicate: the third pillar of the USAF Band of the West

Diversity makes a stronger Air Force, Sept. 7, 2012

Diversity strengthens military

By Col. Rodney Bryan
927th Mission Support Group commander

The Air Force defines diversity as a composite of individual characteristics, experiences, and abilities, consistent with the core values and mission. Diversity includes, but is not limited to, personal experiences, geographic background, socioeconomic background, cultural knowledge, educational background, work background, language abilities, physical abilities, philosophical or spiritual perspectives, age, race, ethnicity and gender.

One of the strengths of our nation and the Air Force is this diversity, which includes and involves all of us. In Executive Order 13583, President Obama stated, “Our nation derives strength from the diversity of its population and from its commitment to equal opportunity for all. We are at our best when we draw on the talents of all parts of our society, and our greatest accomplishments are achieved when diverse perspectives are brought to bear to overcome our greatest challenges.”

As commander of a mission support group, I fully appreciate the importance of diversity. The nature of the various activities and operations directed and controlled by mission support groups worldwide make them the most diverse group within Air Force wings. Functions typically include personnel, logistics planning and readiness, civil engineering, security forces, communications and services. These disciplines are brought together under the mission support group to provide complete and responsive support to installations and the Air Force mission.

Diversity is vital to the successful accomplishment of the Air Force mission. The Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley stated, “Across the service, we represent a broad range of diverse missions, family situations, ethnicities, faiths, races and educational backgrounds. Yet together, this rich tapestry forms the world’s finest Air Force, drawn from the best talent that America has to offer.”

The Air Force must attract, recruit, develop, mentor, and retain the best possible talent to stay effective. Embracing each Airman’s strengths, perspective, and capabilities will help build and sustain a diverse culture that strengthens our service. To gain the most from diversity, Airmen must understand they are valued and have the opportunity to reach their full potential while contributing to the Air Force mission.

Air Force capabilities and war-fighting skills are enhanced by diversity among its personnel. Diversity provides the total force a collection of strengths, perspectives and capabilities that transcend individual contributions. Personnel who work in diverse environments learn to make the most of and combine individual strengths, abilities and perspectives for the good of the mission.

Lastly, diversity is a leadership issue. We who are leaders must be committed to building an Air Force reflects the best of our nation. In addition, we must create an environment that promotes mutual respect and trust while promoting the development and mentorship of Airmen with different backgrounds and perspectives. The message must be effectively communicated that diversity is integral to Air Force core values and enhances mission readiness.

Photo: The strength of the military is improved by the diverse backgrounds of those who make up the organization, a senior National Guard officer said May 3, 2010.

Leaders should walk and talk instead of click and send

Chief Master Sergeant Harold L. Hutchisonby Chief Master Sgt. Harold L. Hutchison
7th Air Force

Recently, I received and reviewed, with great concern, the alarmingly high Air Force suicide rates for fiscal 2012. As of March 27 we have had 30 suicides for the year compared to 23 at this same time last year.

You may be thinking, “Chief, why are you telling me this?” I would respond that I believe one of the many things we as leaders and Airmen can do to reverse this negative trend is employ increased face-to-face communication with your Airmen, to show we care.

Leaders need to get out from behind the desk to visit, mentor and socialize with our Airmen. Communicating in person has always been and still remains extremely important in today’s Air Force.

We have all been ingrained with the definition of leadership. After reading numerous professional military education articles, one could recite a phrase that would probably sound like, “Leadership is the art or the ability of an individual to influence and direct others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organization and its mission.”

There are other ways to describe leadership. Ultimately, leadership is the ability of great leaders to effectively and efficiently lead Airmen to execute the wing’s mission, while making Airmen fully understand and feel their immeasurable contribution to the success of the Air Force’s overall mission. In my humble opinion, that exemplifies true leadership.

Effective personal communication is no small task in the modern military. With units consistently deploying, issues associated with increased family separation, long hours and countless other factors, Airmen may feel a heavy physical and/or mental burden to which no rank is immune.

Within our military culture, we have come to a crossroads with regard to communicating with our folks. Long forgotten is the talent of the one-on-one, face-to-face mentoring that was commonplace in our Air Force of yesterday. Email has certainly expedited the communication process, but it has also hindered, to some degree, the ability and willingness of some of us to get out from behind the desk. It’s taken away from the time we spend with our Airmen because we spend so much time emailing. I’ve seen Airmen send emails to someone 10 feet away from them in the same office. Is this the way we want to communicate with each other in today’s stressful environment?

In a peacetime military atmosphere, relying on email to communicate is sufficient, but a wartime force, with all the demands placed upon it, needs face-to-face communication. An often neglected leadership principle in today’s environment of technology is getting to know your workers and showing sincere interest in their problems, career development and welfare. It’s hard to show someone you really do care about them in an email.

I believe today, more than ever, we need to put more emphasis back on face-to-face communication. Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman, a former Air Force chief of staff, once said, “To become successful leaders, we must first learn that no matter how good the technology or how shiny the equipment, people-to-people relations get things done in our organizations. If you are to be a good leader, you have to cultivate your skills in the arena of personal relations.”

I believe cultivating our inter-personal skills is as simple as just taking the time to talk to your subordinates and get to know them, the things they like and the things they dislike or perhaps about his or her next deployment. Show them you genuinely care for them. A leader who knows his Airmen will be able to recognize when one of them is having problems, either in their personal life or with assigned tasks, and hopefully you will be able to take steps and actions to affect change in the situation. If a leader doesn’t know what normal behavior is from one of his or her Airmen….how will you know what abnormal is?

As the Professional Development Guide states, “Leadership involvement is the key ingredient to maximizing worker performance and hence the mission.” With that said, we need to get out there and lead your Airmen from the front … they deserve good leadership. Finally, the demands of the ongoing war efforts not only need your attention, but require it.

Let’s face it, we cannot provide the leadership required from behind the desk.

Strength, courage on the home front

By Staff Sgt. Nicholas BreamSgt Bream and the 387th ELRS
96th Logistics Readiness Squadron

I was afforded the opportunity to share a heartfelt story of my experience while I was deployed on convoy duty in Iraq. The Learning Channel (TLC) came to my house before I arrived home and recorded the strength and courage that it takes my wife Nicole and three children, Amanda, Joseph, and Jessi to carry on everyday life while I am deployed.

The Learning Channel wanted service members who were deployed and had a special family event they wanted to share. In my case, when I was deployed in 2008 on convoy duty, Nicole gave birth to my son Joseph in Germany with only her friends by her side as I was on mission and could not be there with her. It was almost six months before I got home and the only way Joseph knew me was through a webcam and the sound of my voice. But as soon as he saw me he knew exactly who I was. And then in March of 2011 she gave birth to my daughter Jessi while I was not due back for another six weeks. I sat back and thought to myself “Wow.” I can’t imagine what it must be like to do that by herself and still take care of our other children and attend college full time.

Amanda and Nicole enjoyed watching shows about military members reuniting with family members after a deployment. One evening Amanda asked me via webcam if “Mommy and Daddy could surprise her like that when I came home.” I was excited to be able to surprise her like she wanted and to be able to share it with other people. After a few months of going back and forth with ideas we finally decided that we would make the show about my daughter getting her Girl Scout “Strength and Courage” badge awarded. Amanda helped out Nicole in every way that a 6 year old could. Amanda stepped up to take my place helping around the house, picking up the living room and folding laundry.

From that point on I handed the planning over to Nicole and the Girl Scout leader Elizabeth to work with the production crew. They set it up to be recorded at my home in Florida during a Girl Scout meeting. They invited a local fire fighter to talk about how much strength and courage it takes to do his job. After talking about that for a few minutes he then moved to introduce me, saying how it took more strength and courage to do my job overseas in hostile environments.

They all worked it perfectly so that when I got home from the airport all I had to do was walk in the door and surprise Amanda and her Girl Scout troop. She had no idea I was coming home yet and she was in total shock that her dad was the one to award her this achievement. After I surprised Amanda, Nicole had a surprise for me — getting to see my daughter Jessi for the first time in person since she was born. Up until then I had only seen her via webcam and pictures Nicole sent me. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to finally hold her.

I have deployed two times, and both times they have been for more than six months. Every military member, myself included, has to be ready at a moment’s notice to pick up and go somewhere else for duty. Whether it is for one day or 12 months we are not the ones who have it hard. It’s the family and loved ones we leave behind who are expected to carry on daily life without us.

Photo: Airmen with the 387th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance flight deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation New Dawn from September 2010 to April 2011.

Communicate and Check For Understanding

Maj. Gen. SargeantIn these difficult economic times, organizations are looking for ways to be effective and efficient among seemingly overwhelming changes. Within the Department of Defense, Secretary Gates has called for organizations to allocate resources wisely, stating that, “we must significantly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our business operations.” One DOD organization that is embracing efficiency at full speed is the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center headquartered at Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, N.M. To facilitate buy in from employees during a period of change, simple communication is a must as Maj. Gen. Stephen T. Sargeant explains in his new “Commander’s Corner” commentary “Communication: Leadership Responsibility 24/7.”

One of the first steps in the change process was that leaders at AFOTEC needed to be on the right page in order to communicate the changes, and this involved providing them with the right tools and messages. This gave them the understanding and buy in they needed to discuss changes with their employees. Leaders and subordinates are held responsible for communicating and seeking understanding throughout the change process.

Maj. Gen. Sargeant emphasizes that in order for an organization to survive changes, leadership needs to involve employees. Communicating forthcoming changes is just the first step, but it doesn’t ensure that transitions will go smoothly. Taking the extra step of making sure that employees understand is crucial for sustainable change. Staff must not only know what changes are taking place but must also know why change is necessary and what their role is through it all.

To read more about how AFOTEC is communicating change, see Maj. Gen. Sargeant’s complete article in the Kirtland Air Force Base Nucleus here and here.