Leadership News

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A few proud Airmen among the Few and the Proud: The Marine Corps Corporals Leadership Course at Offutt

by Senior Airman Peter R.O. Danielson
55th Wing Public Affairs

7/31/2013 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb.  -- Three Offutt Airmen stood among the "first to go" as they attended the 4th Marine Logistic Group Corporals Leadership Course here, July 13 - 27, with 31 Marines as they learned basic leadership knowledge and skills necessary to carry out their responsibilities as non-commissioned officers.

Much like the Air Force's Airman Leadership School, this two-week course is part of an enlisted Marine's professional military education.

"Our mission is to grow, develop and teach these Marines and Airmen to be the leaders," said U.S. Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Alexander Lamberth, the course director from Det. 1 Maintenance Company, 4th Maintenance Battalion, in Omaha, Neb. "Leadership is leadership regardless what branch. This course was written to teach our students where they came from as Marines and where they need to take our Corps."

This emphasis on Marine culture and traditions seemed daunting to the Airmen who were coming in as outsiders.

"I was kind of concerned about coming to this class," said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Miguel Ortiz, 55th Wing Law Center. "These Marines have taken me in and made me one of their own. They even made me a squad leader during land navigation training, which was an honor."

"It's pretty motivating to have some Air Force senior airmen in this class," said U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. John Patrick San Nicolas, from Ordnance Maintenance Company, 4th Maintenance Battalion, Waco, Texas. "We treat them like brothers and sisters and get to show them how the Marine Corps does it."

Throughout the 13 training days, the students are given instruction in many topics that include administration process, communication, professional ethics and combat operations.

"This course describes and hones what's needed in each rank," Lamberth said. "We don't only teach them leadership but also professionalism."

The course material is dense, but instructors and students worked through the weekends to ensure they maximize the training time.

Many of the days began at 5 a.m. with a one and a half mile formation run from the O'Malley Inn to the parade ground as a warm up to physical training. Once they arrived, they would do a combination of warm up, strength and conditioning exercises that included buddy push-ups, where each person puts their feet on the shoulders of the person behind them, fireman carries and buddy squats. PT would last anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours and ended with a one and a half mile formation run back to the O'Malley Inn. These exercises were designed to put emphasis on teamwork.

"You're looking left and right at the Marines and Airmen next to you, because there's no time to look at yourself," said U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Jayomie McGowan, from General Support Maintenance Company, 4th Maintenance Battalion, Rock Island Arsenal, Ill. "We're here to motivate each other."

This type of exercise was unlike any the Airmen were used to in organized workouts.

"This is some high-intensity PT," Ortiz said. "I thought I was in shape before. Though, as long as you show up and do your best, they respect you."

Even the Marines found the physical conditioning challenging, yet energizing.

"I look forward to PT every day," said U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Andrew Dodd, Det. 1 Maintenance Company, 4th Maintenance Battalion. "Not initially when I first wake up, of course. By the end of the workout, you are proud of what you've done. I know that no-one back home could do what I've done."

After PT, students changed into utility uniforms for the day and got a hot meal from the King Dining Facility. Then, the students gathered at the James M. McCoy Airman Leadership School for their lessons.

The training days ranged from 12 to 15 hours, allowing the Airmen and Marines a lot of class time to discuss their own traditions and history. One of those traditions is the M1859 Marine NCO sword, which NCOs carry while in command of troops under arms. This weapon is the oldest in continued service still in the U.S. inventory. Students performed drill with these swords and practiced formation in preparation of doing these maneuvers in their home unit.

Ortiz said this opportunity helped him understand much more about the Marine mission and culture.

"I feel like I've learned as much from the Marine students as I've learned from the instructors," Ortiz said. "It's always good to learn what other branches have to do. It's a glimpse into their lives, because a lot of this is a refresher for them. About 95 percent of this material is new to me."

The instructors felt the same way after teaching their first joint PME.

"With the success of this course, I think this has opened opportunities for inter-service PME," said U.S. Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Pete Mireles, course assistant director from the Ordnance Maintenance Company, 4th Maintenance Battalion, Waco, Texas. "I could see the Navy and Army sending students in the future."

As the students prepare to leave, McGowan said that she was ready to return home. She also said she knew that she would take advantage of the connections she made over the course of the class.

"The Marine Corps is a small, tight-knit community, and you'll develop relationships throughout your career," McGowan said. "This class helps build those relationships so wherever you go, you've got someone there you can rely on."

Monday, July 22, 2013

Motivation, dedication

by Airman 1st Class Zachary Kee
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

7/22/2013 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- A handful of service members here take on a task few will attempt in their lifetime. It requires countless hours of practice no one sees, and if they don't execute perfectly when it's show time, there's no hiding their mistakes.

They are a group of service members who have volunteered to display a higher standard of discipline and dedication and to represent the 35th Fighter Wing on and off base; they are the Misawa Honor Guard.

"It's great - I love doing this," said Airman 1st Class Juan Hernandez, Misawa Honor Guard member. "We have to be sharper than all other Airmen and we represent the entire Air Force."

Hernandez is one of about 25 members that make up the Misawa Honor Guard, a group that thrives on upholding military tradition and heritage, all the while knowing all eyes are on them. Like Hernandez, a fellow guardsman Airman 1st Class David Anderson says the heightened expectation brings out the best in them.

"It makes us push that much harder to do a good job and provide the best service we can for details and ceremonies," said Anderson.

Being at the heart of a ceremony doesn't make these Airmen celebrities. In fact, they see it just the opposite. They're not there to get the attention - they're out to give it.

"By participating in these ceremonies we get to give back to the public and let them see what we do first-hand," said Master Sgt. Nicholas Valdez, Misawa Honor Guard superintendent. "We get to take part in community events such as Tops in Blue, Misawa Boys Scouts and American Day."

The term perfection is often used as a goal many people aim to achieve. In the Honor Guard, it's the standard.

"We are always striving for perfection," said 1st Lt. Matthew de Bernardo, Misawa Honor Guard officer in-charge. "The details we do, no matter how many times we do them we are always trying to correct a mistake."

Valdez echoed the lieutenant's thoughts and said Honor Guard members are held to a higher standard and are constantly improving.

"We are going above and beyond and we hope that carries over to their daily jobs and they become even more productive military members," he added.

The Misawa Honor Guard is a team that is known for professionalism and standards of conduct. What's more impressive is they all chose to be here - it's purely a volunteer duty.

"Honor Guard here is an additional duty where service members are excused by their work sections to come in and perform their duties," said de Bernardo. "The majority of the time they spend practicing is on their own free time."

To become a member of the Honor Guard team, trainees -- as they are called before officially being a team member -- must go through an eight-week process.

"The training we go through here goes through different standing manuals that come from 'big' Air Force Honor Guard that teaches facing movements that are different from any commissioning program or training you may have been through," said de Bernardo.

Throughout this eight-week process trainees learn how to do the facing movements, the importance of dress and appearance, what it's like to be on a team, and the different aspects to a colors team detail such as rifle movements and posting of the colors.

"When it is the end of the eight weeks we run through a colors team detail one last time and we have a final evaluation," said de Bernardo.

Once members of the Honor Guard pass their final evaluation, they are given their ceremonial uniform which they wear to every detail they perform - an accomplishment some consider a personal graduation of sorts.

"The first time I got into my ceremonial uniform and performed my first detail with it on was one of the proudest moments I've ever had," said Hernandez. "I knew I was representing the Air Force and it felt great."

Historically, the Honor Guard program primarily operates to provide a formal military presence to honor fallen service members at funerals. While this tradition remains true across the service, Misawa's unique location usually steers this team in a different direction.

De Bernardo said here they focus on colors team details. Although they may have a different focus, he says they are still the same Honor Guard concept.

"It requires the same professionalism, the same standards and the same sense of duty (required to support funerals)," he said. "This gives us an opportunity to focus primarily on the details we perform here."

Another unique quality of the Misawa Honor Guard, that many bases in the military don't have, is three branches working side-by-side. Airmen, Soldiers and Sailors work together to perform the various ceremonies here.

"It's a true team," said de Bernardo. "I think it really adds something to the dynamic of the team and adds to the experience as member of the Honor Guard."

Some might not have a definitive answer of what serving in the military means, but members of the Honor Guard answer without hesitation.

"We are part of the best military in the world," said de Bernardo. "Representing it in some of the most sacred and dignified ceremonies and traditions is what being an ambassador to the military is all about. I believe it is our duty to take the word honor and represent how amazing and awe-inspiring it is to be a part of."

Friday, July 19, 2013

Amputee Leads Marines at Infantry School

By Marine Corps Cpl. Joseph Scanlon
1st Marine Division

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., July 18, 2013 – Marine Corps infantry instructors are expected to be physically fit, mentally strong and have a vast amount of knowledge in their occupational field.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Gabriel Guest continues to mentor and lead Marines after having his left leg amputated. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Scanlan

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Gunnery Sgt. Gabriel Guest, the chief instructor of the Advanced Machine Gunners course at the School of Infantry-West’s Advanced Infantry Training Battalion here, is no exception.

"When I joined the Marine Corps, I chose to join the infantry because I like action and being in the thick of things, and because of the challenge it presents," said Guest, a native of Spokane, Wash. "The infantry is very dynamic, because there are a lot of different aspects you can master like weapons or tactics."

Guest deployed four times, three times to combat zones, in his career.

His first deployment was with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, in support of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, in response to the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole in a Yemeni harbor. His second and third deployments were to Iraq with 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, and his fourth and final deployment was to Afghanistan with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines.
Guest experienced his first enemy contact while deployed to Afghanistan during 2008.

"After our first engagement in Now Zad, we had to fight our way out of the city," he recalled. "It was like that every day for the next five months. Most engagements lasted anywhere from five to 15 hours long. I never wanted to see my guys get hurt or wounded, but I still carry those memories with me today."

After five months of constant enemy contact, Guest's vehicle drove over a pressure plate improvised explosive device, ejecting him from the vehicle and causing three different compound fractures in his left leg.

"After the dust cleared, I started to look around, and I noticed my boot was next to my face," Guest said. "I thought I was dizzy and was hallucinating until I looked down and saw the blood on my pant leg and saw the bones sticking out."

Guest was first sent to the medical facility at Bagram Airfield, and then to many other hospitals for more than 25 surgeries. During physical therapy, Guest said, he realized his leg wasn't going to heal as well as he had hoped it would, so he went through further surgeries.

Later, he was offered the chance to work at the School of Infantry as a machine gun instructor and seized the opportunity.

"I was the chief instructor running courses, and I was doing perfectly fine," Guest said. "I was working with weapons and doing regular infantry stuff again when I started to feel ill and my leg started hurting."

His leg became continuously infected because of constant physical training, and he was left with only three options: fusing his leg straight, allowing no bending in the knee; having a total knee replacement with risk of future infections that could be fatal; or having the leg amputated. He chose amputation, and underwent the operation on Oct. 10, 2012.

"Choosing to have my leg amputated was one of the hardest decisions I've had to make in my life, because it is losing part of myself," Guest said.

Guest took only a week off work for his amputation because of his dedication. He continued to recover while he resumed teaching Marines.

"The Marine Corps made the Expanded Permanent Limited Duty Program for Marines like me who are wounded warriors and want to continue being Marines," Guest said. "I hope that I'm showing the commandant the program was a great choice, because I don't know what I would do with myself if I wasn't a Marine."

Through the EPLD program, Marines who experienced significant combat injuries that normally would restrict them from continuing their service are allowed to continue their careers by mentoring Marines through their leadership skills sharpened by combat experience.

Guest has taught multiple courses and is back to full duty, aside from certain physical training events, since his amputation.

"It's awesome to see him still have the same opportunities everyone else gets, because he earned every bit of it," said Marine Corps Cpl. Sean O'Malley, an instructor at the Advanced Machine Gunners course. "I've never seen him not willing to do something for any of his Marines. He puts so much into being an instructor, because he knows the Marines he is teaching may find themselves in the same combat situations he found himself in years ago. He wants each and every one of them to come back alive."

Guest said one of the reasons he loves his job is that he’s able to show Marines the reality of combat with the loss of his leg.

"I have had friends who were amputees who started drinking more and became depressed after losing their limbs, but Gunnery Sergeant Guest is not one of those people," said O'Malley, a Chicago native. "He is more active than a lot of people who have both of their legs."

Guest still swims and physically trains as he did before the amputation. He plans to return to an infantry battalion and continue to deploy overseas after finishing his time as an instructor.

"Once someone loses a limb from their body, it makes them appreciate the little things in life," he said. "It makes them understand how limited humans are, but it also lets them know how endless the potential is."

Thursday, July 18, 2013

At Public Affairs course, knowledge sharing, not just lessons

by Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
I.G. Brown Training and Education Center

7/15/2013 - MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- It was seven years ago when the Air Force's Chief of Staff, Gen. T. Michael Moseley, directed the merger of multimedia and public affairs Airmen, and it has taken those years to bring their super-offices for media/community relations, news, data and images to fruition. Today, still deep in the fight, Airmen are re-thinking their communications synchronization with the help of the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center and each other's best practices.

According to the National Guard Bureau, a fraction of public affairs Airmen - those who served before the merger - received any classroom instruction that addressed the joined career fields and their new management tasks. One of the biggest complaints from managers then was that they basically went to bed as Visual Information and woke up as Public Affairs, said one official.

Although talk of the merger mostly fell silent, Senior Master Sgt. Shaun Withers and Master Sgt. Bill Conner still hold lessons here that address some remaining deficiencies.

The Air National Guard's Public Affairs Managers course is a solid two-weeks of instruction on how to run a successful Public Affairs office. It was the TEC's first Professional Continuing Education course offered - introduced many years ago as the Audio Visual Management Course.

The certified instructors train more than 50 students a year from the Air National Guard's 89 flying Wings - not because of the merger, but because Public Affairs is now an office prone to constant change and trends.

"The career field changes and technology changes so fast now that we recommend fulltime support staff to take the course every two to three years," said Withers, career field manager and functional area manager for NGB Public Affairs.

Withers makes the drive here three times a year from the Air National Guard Readiness Center on Joint Base Andrews in Maryland to teach the course. He has logged a good amount of time to ensure its continued success. "As far as value added, this is one of the best things I've seen us provide," he said.

In an effort to integrate the new Public Affairs Air Force Instructions, Withers and others rewrote the entire course. A lot of the old paperwork and Visual Information requirements were tossed, and things like media engagement and traditional public affairs tasks were introduced.

Feedback has been positive, Withers said.

"It's exactly what people are looking for," he said, adding that his greatest support has been from Wing executive officers who attend the course as a means to get public affairs savvy. Course attendance, which is financed by the units, remains high despite tough budget times.

On a recent afternoon at the TEC campus, the instructors teamed up with the TEC's broadcasters to test students in mock, on-camera media interviews. "With today's tight budgets, we may be the only training they're going receive for quite some time, so we take it very seriously," Conner said.

The students later reviewed themselves with the instructors and offered each other gentle suggestions about their body language and word choices. A few students gave odd answers or stumbled in their recordings, which made for some shared chuckles and laughs in class.

Conner was straight forward about the fact that some Wing executive officers and public affairs managers had little to no time in front of a camera, despite their critical responsibilities as external speakers. "Every time we teach this course we're reminded just how important the course is," he said.

Unlike assigned readings of their new AFIs, the course encouraged students to also share their best practices and products. "You can get only so much from the new AFIs," said Capt. Steven Stubbs, a public affairs officer who traveled from the 186th Air Refueling Wing in Mississippi.

Stubbs had to overhaul his public affairs messages and products four times in the last few years for his Wing's seemingly endless revolving weapons systems. The course is a big help to him and his fulltime manager, he said, but what he also needs is skill training, especially for his older photographers now tasked as writers.

"We want to give the best products to our customers and to our Wing commander," said Stubbs.

There are additional lessons offered by the Air National Guard here, said Withers. The "Smokey Mountain Short Course" - a week-long, fast-paced, broadcasters' critique course - is popular, and similar efforts are underway to develop a news writing and photography course for photojournalists.

"I think the Air National Guard is doing a fantastic job," said Withers. "When you have good interaction between the instructors and the students, sharing ideas, sharing best practices, that's another way to ensure everybody has the best products out there."

Guest speakers including regular visits by Lt. Col Tom Crosson from the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, helps enrich students with broader practices and trends.

Students are also handed a DVD on their graduation day that contains volumes of Public Affairs data - anything on the career field, shared by those recognized as the best doing it.

Withers said there's no reason that any Air National Guard unit should be reinventing their Public Affairs wheel today. "We have proven products ... localize them to what you do," he told them.

"We throw a lot of information at them in the two weeks they are here," said Withers. "They get every briefing and every slide show, which allows them to take that home and use it as training aids ... as well as all of the take-away programs and best practices. Honestly, the more training ... the better off we are."

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Enlisted chiefs break down leadership traits

by Airman 1st Class Nicole Sikorski
20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

7/11/2013 - SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- "Leadership is not a popularity contest," said 9th Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. James Davis. "Leadership will keep you up at night, because you care about your Airmen and Soldiers. If it matters to them it's got to matter to you."

Davis, and fellow Shaw AFB, S.C., senior enlisted leaders gathered to speak at a quarterly leadership panel, June 28.

The enlisted leaders spoke to more than 100 service members during the panel, which was sponsored by the Shaw Top Three. They addressed what it takes to be in a leadership position, how to become a good leader, certain obstacles you are faced with in those positions and knowing your people.

All of the Shaw senior enlisted leaders agreed that in addition to gaining trust from your people, commitment to your duty around-the-clock is a must while being on top and leading from the front.

"There are going to be times where it is going to come before your family and your personal desires," said Ford. "At those times you will need to put your people first and stay focused on taking care of them."

After speaking about the main components of leadership, the chiefs and command sergeant major answered questions from both enlisted and commissioned service members.

Four U.S. Air Force chief master sergeants addressed the crowd with Davis: Chief Master Sgt. Darrel Ford, 20th Operations Group superintendent, , Chief Master Sgt. James Wilkerson, 20th Fighter Wing command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Suzanne Talbert, 20th Mission Support Group superintendent, and Chief Master Sgt. Robert Rice, 20th Maintenance Operations Squadron superintendent, as well as U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Stephan Frennier, Third Army/U.S. Army Central senior enlisted advisor, attended the event.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

We need leaders with ICE in their veins

Commentary by Col. David Miller
21st Operations Group

7/10/2013 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) -- As I was preparing to take command of the 21st Operations Group, one of my former Airmen called me to see if my leadership expectations had changed. He was preparing his own leadership expectations briefing for his first commander's call, and he wanted to know if I still had a one-word expectation for my officers and NCOs -- "Lead!"

I responded I still had a one word expectation for myself and the leaders I worked with, however, I went on to explain that how they lead is an indispensable part of the conversation. Why? It is our job as leaders to create and sustain an environment for our people to succeed professionally and personally. Moreover, in such a dynamic security and fiscal environment, and at a time when we continue to expect more and more from our Airmen, how we act is just as important as what we do.

Now, I would not presume to make judgments or prescriptions about the environment of every unit ... but I do believe, as our leaders of the past did, that leadership is a "team sport" and that a dialogue about leadership expectations is a healthy thing for any organization, particularly as we build and shape the next generation of officers and NCOs.

I suspect many of you know the old maxim, "The pace of the pack is set by the leader." And, no doubt throughout your careers you have seen this metaphor in action in the form of a particular NCO, commander or supervisor. Reflecting on the question above, however, necessitates a more sophisticated reading of this phrase. Not only does the leader set the pace of the pack, he is responsible for determining the pack's direction, membership, care and feeding, and rest stops along the way. In short, the leader must be guided by certain principles that make up his or her core leadership philosophy.

Throughout my career I have many valuable leadership traits, but I have witnessed three that rise above the rest as fundamental to effective leadership in the 21st Century Air Force: Integrity, competence and empathy.

Integrity as a fundamental leadership trait should be no surprise to Airmen as it is one of our core values. It speaks to our character, our ability to see the right in any situation, and our Airmen need to see it manifest in our decision making. They don't expect us to shy away from the hard tasks, or make decisions based on some misplaced sense of privilege or pride.

On the contrary, they expect their leaders to display a moral excellence, set the highest standards, gather the necessary information and embrace the tough decisions mindful of the consequences. Why? Because that's what we pay leaders to do! In short, decisions that are based on "math" and not "manhood," and centered on a foundation of moral excellence will always stand up to the scrutiny of the finest Airmen in the world.

The next fundamental trait our Airmen demand of our leaders is competence. Our Airmen have every right to expect their leaders to be masters of their craft. Now, I come from an operations background, and in our community our Airmen expect our leaders to have a credibility that is derived from a career of experience in operations. This expectation is no different than the expectation that our firemen have of a fire chief or a maintainer has of his supervisor. The bottom line is that competence is based on a legacy of learning, enhances your credibility and allows you as a leader to make rapid, informed decisions under pressure. It is competence, shaped by experience, that will allow a leader to identify problems and call turns in the road before issues become crises -- our Airmen deserve no less.

Last, and certainly not least, is empathy. I think of empathy as the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes and view the world as they see it. It is a leadership trait that is extremely difficult to master, but it is also incredibly important for a leader to make the effort every day. How else is he or she is going to be able to understand and appreciate what our Airmen are going through? It is empathy that will inform a supervisor how to motivate a particular individual, and it is empathy that will let a leader know when an individual needs a break or has taken on too much.

In today's environment, we are constantly asking our Airmen to do more with less, and they continue to surprise me each and every day with how often they raise their hand and get after it no matter how difficult the challenge. Our Airmen are able to do this because they are highly capable and motivated, and it is here where empathy is most critical for a leader in that it allows him or her to distinguish enthusiasm from capability. In sum, a 21st Century Airman requires a leader who can identify with him and see the world through his eyes.

There are many traits that we value in our leaders, and our followers for that matter, and I have picked three in order to promote discussion and debate. For your work center or functional area, the most critical traits may be slightly different. The key is that, as we build, lead and teach the next generation of Airmen, they learn the importance of integrity, competence and empathy.

We need leaders with ICE in their veins to ensure we remain the most lethal, professional and combat-relevant Air Force on the planet ... our Airmen deserve no less!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Leap to your limits

Commentary by Lt. Col. Oliver K. Leeds
92nd Air Refueling Squadron

7/9/2013 - FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. (AFNS) -- One of the lessons I carry around with me every day is something I learned from the jumping events in high school track and field.

I was intimidated by the high jump. Unlike the long jump, where every leap into the sand pit could be measured and faults were not embarrassing, the high jump presented a daunting binary challenge: clear the bar or make an embarrassing spectacle. Knocking the bar down could hurt if it landed between me and the mat, and the groans from spectators could be ego devastating.

Some of my long jumps were better than others, but none felt like failures. In the high jump, however, failure was certain. Every competition has the same sequence: jump, succeed; jump, succeed; jump, fail. It was always there, stalking me. Eventually, my limits prepared me to announce to the world, "I failed!"

One day, at my more comfortable long jump pit, my attitude swung 180 degrees. Simply put, I was discontented not knowing if I had done my best. Could I have run faster? Did I jump too far behind the line? Should I have waited for the breeze to shift directions? The second guessing went on and on. I didn't have this problem in the high jump. In the high jump, I always knew I did my best, because I pushed myself until I failed. Eureka!

Had I found comfort in failure? Yes, because it assured me I had done my best, and removed regrets for not having tried.

My thoughts turned immediately to the sealed and addressed, yet unmailed, envelope on my desk at home. It was college application season, and I had been accepted to all four schools to which I had applied. But the application on my desk was different -- it was to "the long-shot school" -- the school I would go to if I could, but seriously doubted I had a chance.

Wasn't it smarter to avoid failure? I could spend the rest of my life thinking I wasn't rejected, rather than apply and remove all doubt. But that day, 23 years ago, I glanced over my shoulder at an unusually inspiring high jump bar. I walked out of my uncertain sand, went home and mailed the application. Sure enough, two months later I was rejected. It was my first true failure in the road of life, but I have spent the decades since confident that I have done my best and grateful that I had learned to live a life without regrets.

Some of my fellow Airmen surprise me for not seeing that lesson. I have known people not applying for jobs for fear of rejection. I've known NCOs and officers alike retiring before finding out if they were selected for a promotion. All kinds of challenges are declined for some form or flavor of failure avoidance.

Life is short, and an Air Force career is fast. Not failing does not mean you are successful; it means you traveled too cautiously. Leap to your limits, learn from failures and live without regrets. That is a successful journey!

Monday, July 08, 2013

Leading change

Commentary by Lt. Colonel Rodney Jorstad
325th Medical Support Squadron

7/8/2013 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- How many times have you been waiting in a line for service wondering why something takes so long when it seems like it should be an easy process? Or worse, you waited in line and finally get to the customer service representative and find out you are missing a document and must come back later?

You leave frustrated and wonder why someone doesn't fix the process, or have a way to let you know you needed the document before you waited in line.

Finally, you compose yourself, get the needed document and return to stand in line the next day. You're are prepared this time! You wait in line again, get to the front of the line and feel obligated to tell the new customer service representative at the window the situation from the previous day only to find out you really didn't need the document after all.

Does this describe where you work?

How do we change our processes to be less frustrating for the end user of our services or products we supply as Air Force members?

Change starts with you. You are trained to be an expert in your field: use your expertise to critically review how you do your job and the functions you perform daily.

Utilize an "outsider" perspective to determine if steps in a process are value added for the end user or an internal requirement. If a step doesn't add value, determine if it is required by law or instruction. The idea here is to eliminate waste or legacy processes that are no longer applicable to what you do today.

Identifying waste and developing solutions to improve your day-to-day processes is a great way to achieve a deeper understanding of your specialty and develop leadership skills. It can be done at any level.

Your leaders are looking for people to find ways to be more efficient by cutting wasted time and money on unnecessary processes, or steps in a process. Leading change can be challenging, but starting early in your career with small projects will help develop the skills needed to affect change on a larger scale.

How do you get started leading change in your organization? First, realize the need to change and determine how to improve your job or efficiency.

Most problems in processes are communication issues, especially between organizations or sections. Determining the communication breakdown and developing a solution is a great way to get started improving your workplace.

Next, discuss your idea with a few trusted peers, get their input and adjust fire as needed. Technology is not always the answer; remember to keep things simple.

Your new process or change needs to be sustainable.

The challenge is the few people who refuse to change after most people are ready to implement your plan. If they are not on board it can cause mission failure for your new idea to improve your work area. Determine why they are not behind the plan. Some people are only motivated by the "what's in it for me" mentality. Highlight how your change will make their job easier or how it improves your customers' satisfaction or saves money or time.

Learning what motivates people and how to get them to change will develop you as a leader.

The most difficult part of leading change is sustaining the improvements made. Most of us are in organizations that turn over personnel on a continuous basis, so having the new process written down and captured in operating instructions is paramount to ensuring your change doesn't revert back to the old way of doing things. There is a reason it was broken in the first place, and many times you will find it is because the process was never written down and people have developed their own way of completing their tasks.

So the next time you are frustrated at a process or standing in line, think about your job. What can you do to lead change in your organization and create a better experience for your customers?

Thursday, July 04, 2013

That narrow way

Commentary by Col. Dennis Seymour
927th Mission Support Group

7/4/2013 - MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) --  How do you define a leader?

Is a leader the individual who creates an atmosphere of teamwork and camaraderie in the workplace? Someone who quickly and easily gathers support to accomplish that short-notice tasker from your boss? Is a leader someone you place your trust in to get you through the tough spots, or commands an aircraft carrying men and equipment to a safe landing in some faraway land? Is being a parent the definition of a leader?

The answer is yes, to all of those and more. A quote that has stuck with me through the years reads, "Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." As leaders, we should strive to lead our troops on this "narrow way."

When we joined the military we were young, strong, and more than a bit scared. We looked for someone to follow who would show us the way; putting us on the right path and then letting us step out on our own, with that leader always right behind us.

We knew we could trust them, because they were our leaders. These days, we hear about sequestration, furloughs and budget deficits. And we know all about deployments, family care, powers of attorney and hazardous duty pay. You might think, "I didn't sign up for all this." But it is that narrow way we chose to walk when we signed up.

Whether you have one stripe on each sleeve or eagles hanging on your shoulders, we all must continue to challenge ourselves. You're never too old or too smart to learn something new, or to share what you've learned with someone else.

An organization rises and falls on leadership. Wrapped around that leadership is communication. I make it a point to visit with my folks on an informal basis as much as I can. I do this not only to keep them in the loop, but also as a way for me to find out what's going on with them. They get to know me and things I like, and I do the same with them.

Keeping the lines of communication open up and down the chain of command definitely works. Trust me.

We can all be leaders. Step out and keep stepping. Someone will need you to lead them, to help them walk that narrow way.