Tag Archives: leadership

Command Chief Master Sergeant Forum: professionals, leaders, wingmen

By Airman 1st Class Krystal Tomlin
Air Force Public Affairs

Chief Master Sgt. Pat BattenbergIn attending Air Force Association’s 2011 Air & Space Conference & Technology Exposition, I had the opportunity to sit in on the Command Chief Master Sergeant Forum where the chiefs answered questions from the participants on any topic relating to the Air Force and leadership.

A number of interesting questions were brought up. What’s the biggest challenge to the enlisted force? How can supervisors best lead millennial troops? Do you have any advice for junior enlisted Airmen?

As I was listening to the responses to these questions I began to notice that from the day we receive that cherished Airman’s coin and the even greater treasure of being called an Airman each one of us has the answers.

When asked if all Airmen are professionals, all of the chiefs agreed without a doubt that we are absolutely professionals. Command Chief Master Sergeant to the Director of the Air National Guard Christopher Muncy said that with all of the training and education requirements that Airmen have to maintain we may even be more professional than our civilian counterparts. This professionalism is something that we learn in basic training and solidify throughout our career.

Another recurring theme was taking care of each other and trusting leadership. These were part of nearly every topic, and though they were usually brought up as two separate things, I believe that they go hand in hand.

Chief Master Sergeant William W. Turner, Command Chief Master Sergeant for Air Force Special Operations Command, said that one of the biggest stressors for the enlisted force is uncertainty of the future. Chief Master Sergeant John T. Salzman, Command Chief Master Sergeant of the U.S. Air Force Academy, followed that up by saying Airmen know with certainty that they will deploy, but they don’t know what will happen to their family. The solution they offered was to trust that leadership will make the right decisions.

A piece of advice that Chief Master Sergeant Pat Battenberg, Command Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force District of Washington, gave to Airmen might also help leaders at all levels gain the trust that will help alleviate some stress, and it involves taking care of one another. He said to try to find a way to say yes even when it may be easier to say no.

Munsy wrapped it up nicely when he reminded us that the first thing we were ever issued in the military was a wingman.

We keep our uniforms, equipment and personal appearance in inspection order, so ask yourself, are you taking the same care with your wingmen?

Photo: Chief Master Sgt. Pat Battenberg, Air Force District of Washington command chief, answers a question from a member of the audience Sept. 19, 2011 at the Command Chief Master Sergeant Forum during the Air Force Association 2011 Air & Space Conference & Technology Exposition in National Harbor, Md. The forum was an opportunity for Airmen to have a direct line of communication with top leaders in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Melissa Goslin)

Planes break, plans change, people make things happen

By Gene Kamena, Professor
Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.

Mr. Kamena, retired Army colonel, is a professor at Air War College where he teaches leadership. In this post, he discusses the great leadership he witnessed on his way to a conference.

The Air Force has its traditions; I guess a 4 a.m. show time for a 6:30 a.m. takeoff is one of them … at least that was the plan.

The propellers were already turning on the C-130J Super Hercules as we walked out of the hangar towards the plane. The familiar smell of jet fuel sent me back to distant places and other times. I had been here before, but never as a civilian and never wearing blue jeans. I was preparing to travel to the Air Education and Training Command symposium in San Antonio.

Chalk two — my chalk — began loading at 6:30 a.m. The plane started rolling at 7 a.m., but 30 minutes on the ramp seemed unusually long. I knew something was awry. When the C-130J finally came to a stop, my suspicions were confirmed.

The plane was “hard broke,” and I knew this could turn into a long day. However, the NCOs took control, and within minutes, had the passengers divided up and placed on other planes. The plan was that my aircraft would have a two-hour layover at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., to pick-up other passengers before flying to San Antonio.

Thankfully, the flight to Eglin AFB was uneventful, except for one thing — the plane’s loadmaster. Having served more than thirty years in the Army had trained my eyes to watch people, particularly NCOs while they went about their duties. I always learned something when watching a good NCO. This loadmaster was one of them. He went about his tasks with a determined purpose. He checked everything, he ensured other crew members completed their responsibilities, and he kept a watchful eye on all the passengers.

The plane landed with a jolt. We were no longer airborne, but the loadmaster was still diligent in his duties. He directed us off the back ramp while the plane took on fuel, led us a safe distance away and kept all the passengers together. After all, herding a group of colonels and civilians is no easy task.

The remainder of our time at Eglin AFB was spent off the tail of the C-130J, watching the plane refuel and waiting for additional passengers to show. The time passed quickly as I conversed with the loadmaster — a great young American.
Staff Sgt. Dave Sanders was enthusiastic about his job, his Air Force and his unit — the 62nd Airlift Squadron from Little Rock AFB, Ark. He took pride in his plane, and it showed. It was also obvious he knew his job, and did it well.

Sergeant Sanders has been in the Air Force for 10 years and wants to continue serving as a C-130 loadmaster; in fact, that is all he wants to do. He is articulate, motivated and professional. Our chance encounter left this retired Army colonel with a sense of satisfaction; the aircraft and the people under the charge of Sergeant Sanders will continue to be in good hands.

A couple leadership points are worth considering, especially for those of us who stay behind a desk or in classrooms a large portion of our day:

— There are great people in the Air Force; you just have to get out and meet them. Take time to speak to enlisted members; ask them their stories. You will be amazed at their professionalism and patriotism.

— The best thing a leader can do, when leading people like Sergeant Sanders, is provide them with what they need to do their jobs … and then stay out of their way.

— Airplanes break and plans change, but people of Sergeant Sanders’s caliber overcome and make things happen.

My first AETC symposium was a good experience. The lectures and speeches were excellent, but I think what I heard and saw at the conference will soon fade. My conversation with an Air Force loadmaster has made a lasting impression.

PHOTO:  The 48th Airlift Squadron trains C-130J pilots and loadmasters for the United States Air Force. Adept, responsive and reliable are words that help describe the 48th’s mission, and their Airmen are ready to hop to it. (U.S. Air Force photo by Steele C. G. Britton)

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.

Adm. Mullen’s Address to Academy Grads–The Only Thing That Matters is Duty

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivered the remarks to the graduating class of the United States Air Force Academy on May 26, 2010. DoD Live has video and the links to the full ceremony here. Below is the text of his speech.

I had the honor today of addressing the graduating class of 2010 from the United States Air Force Academy. They and a select group of college graduates throughout the country are receiving a diploma this month and then raising their hand to defend our nation. As I fly back home to Washington now, it is to these young men and women entering our military that I wish to impart some of the same time-tested advice I gave our newest Air Force officers.

In a word, it’s about duty.

Your first duty is to learn your jobs, and learn them well. Know them cold. Know them better than your peers, better even than your superiors. Stay ahead of the technology and the trends, because you are going to be on the leading edge of that change.

You are going to be responsible for making sure those you command and those you serve are informed and able to make the best decisions they can, often with little or no notice. You can’t do that if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Become an expert. That is the most meaningful way a junior officer can contribute to the mission.

Your second duty is to lead. And there’s a lot that goes into that, I know. Let me just tell you a little of what it means to me. It means loyalty. And loyalty must be demonstrated to seniors, peers, and subordinates alike. It must never be blind. Few things are more important to an organization than people who have the moral courage to question the direction in which the organization is headed and then the strength of character to support whatever final decisions are made.

Leadership also requires integrity. You may, at times, prove better than your word, but you will rarely prove better than your actions. The high standards by which you measure your own personal behavior and that of others, say more about you and your potential than any statements you make or guidance you give. You should strive to conduct yourself always in such a manner that it can never be said that you demanded less of yourself or of the men and women in your charge than that which is expected of you by your families or your countrymen.

A leader today must likewise think creatively. She should be able to place herself outside the problems immediately before her and look at them from a fresh perspective. While great decisions can be made in the heat of battle, great ideas are usually born in the ease of quiet. You must find the quiet to let your imaginations soar.

And that brings me to your final duty — to listen. You must listen to yourselves, to your instincts. You must also prove capable of listening to others, of trying to see problems through the perspectives of our allies, our partners, and our friends all over the world. No one military, no one nation, can do it alone anymore. It’s why I sat cross-legged in a shura with tribal elders in Afghanistan. It’s why our troops in that war-torn country are working so hard to speak the language and understand the culture.

Finally, remember that graduation and commissioning represent only the end of the beginning of your education. The world is now your classroom. Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, and Marines are now your teachers. They and their families are the best they’ve ever been: talented, eager, and proud of what they are doing.

Take full advantage of their knowledge to improve yours. Show them your loyalty, and they will show you theirs. Demonstrate integrity in everything you do, and they will respect you. You represent the values they have — throughout our history — struggled to defend. Only by earning the support of those you lead can you ever truly hope to become a leader yourself.

Only by doing your duty — straight and true — can you hope to prove worthy of the trust this nation places in you today.

Best of luck to you all, God bless and congratulations.

– Adm. Mike Mullen