Leadership News

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

If you don't like it, change it

By Airman 1st Class Zachary Vucic, Air Force News Service 

Former MTI’s road to recovery transformed tragedy into inspiration

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (AFNS) -- My experience at Air Force Basic Military Training is seared into my brain. Though the specifics are slowly fading, I will always remember feeling every emotion on the spectrum on a daily basis, thanks in large part to “the monster,” my military training instructor, Tech. Sgt. Matthew Zien.

He was always lurking. He seemed to have an endless amount of energy; if we were awake, he was there. I remember seeing other MTIs and thinking, “Man, how bad is my luck that I drew Zien?”

It seemed the "I" in MTI stood for intimidation, rather than instructor, but as my flight progressed through the eight-week training, blind fear gave way to a profound sense of respect. His lessons on resiliency still resonate with me today, and during a recent trip to Buckley Air Force Base, Colo., those lessons from BMT were reinforced beyond what I could imagine.

It’s been more than two years since BMT, so I was surprised when I got a phone call from my old MTI. Zien had been working on a leadership newsletter to distribute to his wing, and called me to take cursory look before he sent it out. Along with the newsletter, he sent his autobiography. As I read through the chronicling of his past year, I knew I had to act. His story needed to be told.

Due to medical issues, Zien nearly lost his life. During his recovery, he relapsed into post-traumatic stress syndrome and attempted suicide. Once he made the decision to get better, he shifted his focus from his own pain to mentoring.

He mentors anyone, military and civilian alike, drawing on his near-death experience for inspiration. During my two days with him, he took a day to speak to elementary school students, told his story to the cameras at the Buckley AFB public affairs shop, and mentored the Airmen he works with in one-on-one sessions.  His message was consistent -- “If you don’t like it, change it.”

For a man who still fights his own symptoms daily, he was steadfast in his dedication to others. He would roam the halls of his work center, and with genuine concern, he asked coworkers how their day was. When Airmen mentioned being stressed or having trouble in their personal lives, he encouraged them to take action. He held conversations with them until they felt better about their situation.

His job at the medical wing was to heal, but he told me that's not the way he operates. He didn't want to sit idly by, knowing there was work to be done. As he observed his surroundings, he saw where improvements could be made and without hesitation, jumped at chance to make an impact.

After spending a mere day at his work center, I observed firsthand as he assisted Airmen both personally and professionally. He made phone calls to clarify processes, offered advice and talked through situations with several Airmen, all before noon. He was no longer the intimidating figure I knew him as at BMT, he was an instructor in every sense of the word -- A true leader.   

“If you don’t like it, change it,” -- It was this message that I took with me. I now, like him, wake up with the deliberate intention of having a good day and making an impact. When something goes wrong or I get frustrated, his message echoes, and I change it

Monday, December 23, 2013

Stratcom Chief Promotes Culture of Teamwork, Excellence

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2013 – Recognizing that members of U.S. Strategic Command “have chosen a career where there is no room for error,” its new commander is fostering a command culture that demands integrity, encourages leadership and teamwork, and inspires trust.

Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney arrived at Stratcom last month to a full plate of responsibilities he said demand the best of what every member of the command has to offer.

“You cannot micromanage the entire span of work of U.S. Strategic Command,” he told American Forces Press Service. “When you look at the number of components and task forces it is very important not to hold back the leadership we have here, across the board.”

Haney, who previously served as Stratcom’s deputy commander, is well-acquainted with the talent pool that supports nuclear deterrence and other missions related to space, cyber, missile defense, and intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance.

“What our command brings is a pool of some incredibly talented individuals, both in uniform and in civilian clothes, with vast experience,” he said. “So my style is to embellish their capabilities and to leverage them so everyone can work together for the whole in terms of getting to those issues.”

A U.S. Naval Academy graduate and career submariner, Haney challenges command members to recognize the key roles they play in the overall mission. “The business of developing and harnessing and nurturing effective teamwork has been how I have grown up in the military environment,” he said.

At all-hands gatherings and other forums, for example, he often asks the leaders among the group to identify themselves.

“And I expect to see all the hands raised, because in this business we have folks at all levels contributing to our defense apparatus in a big way,” he said. “It requires teamwork and each and every individual, working together, in order to make the capabilities we have work.”

Haney rarely passes up an opportunity to sing the praises of his people. “Their passion and dedication for the work is one I do not take for granted,” he said.

Almost immediately after returning to Stratcom, Haney set out to thank members of the nuclear force at Minot Air Force Base, N.D.; F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo.; and Navy Submarine Base King’s Bay, Ga., for the often-unsung contributions they make every day.

“What I have found is a very positively motivated nuclear force that is focused on the job at hand. They were all very positive about what they were doing,” he said.

Some, he acknowledged, had taken to heart the negative perceptions generated when news broke that some nuclear missile crews came up short on evaluations. “When I met with them, their concerns were all about how they can get better, and not resting on their laurels,” he said.

Haney said these isolated cases overshadow the stellar performance the entire nuclear force exhibits 24/7, 365 days a year.

Noting the extremely high standards that nuclear forces are held to, he said it’s not unexpected that all units may not achieve the maximum scores every time they are evaluated. “Given the scrutiny that we provide this business, and the fact that we are holding the bar so high, consequently, from time to time, you would expect us to have some negative results -- but not on a continuous basis,” he said.

The goal, Haney said, is for units to apply the lessons learned through this process quickly so they can meet the standard when they are inspected next. Ensuring that happens depends on leadership across the command that emphasizes accountability and responsibility at every level, he said.

Haney underscored these principles in his first combatant commander guidance memo, issued in the first weeks after he arrived at Stratcom’s headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

“This organization has a long-standing and well-earned reputation for operational excellence,” he told the command. “You are respected across the nation for the work that you do.”

As he laid out his priorities for the command, Haney emphasized his expectations for every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, civilian and contractor that make up Stratcom’s staff.

“We stand at the top of the integrity, ethics and standards pyramid,” he wrote, reminding them that they represent the command through their actions.

“The rules apply to all of us, and you set the example for others,” Haney added.

The admiral said he entrusts his staff to provide him with the best recommendations and feedback possible, urging detailed and well-researched staff work that considers the “so what” of an issue.

And for those who might hesitate to act when confronted with unfamiliar or gray areas, Haney made clear that he expects staff members to be willing to think for themselves. “You don’t need my permission to do your job. I have complete confidence in your abilities,” he assured them. “When in doubt, make an informed decision now and we will sort it out later.”

Haney emphasized the importance of collaboration and information sharing that supports without delay the decision-making process.

“Teamwork is essential to success,” he said.

“In today’s uncertain times, I can think of no more focused, innovative and professional group to deliver critical warfighting capabilities to the nation,” Haney said in closing. “You are all vital to the command and mission. I am humbled by the culture of excellence you have created and I am tremendously honored to serve alongside each of you.”

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Well of Fortitude

Commentary by Army Col. Pete Andrysiak
2d Engineer Brigade commander

12/19/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Last month, I had the opportunity to speak to my Soldiers about resilience and the importance of constantly replenishing their personal wells of fortitude. The term was articulated by author and Army psychologist retired Army Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, who described the well as "a private reservoir of inner strength and fortitude."

When we experience stress by enduring life's trials, our wells are depleted accordingly. These personal trials can be physical, emotional, spiritual or intellectual. Anybody who draws too deeply from their well will eventually be in serious trouble, because they won't have the resilience to continue on. When good things happen, when we live healthy lifestyles and when we do things we enjoy, our wells are replenished.

The key to being resilient is consistently finding sources of replenishment. Every person is different and not everyone's sources for replenishment are the same, but there are a few that are almost universal.

One that I highly recommend is regular and vigorous physical activity. Exercise strengthens your body and helps you to cope with stress. I'm a firm believer that good physical training in the morning can set the tone for the rest of the day. That is why I expect units under my command to have well-planned and resourced PT every duty day and that every Soldier participates.

If the Trailblazers are pushing hard and experiencing intense, physically-demanding exercise every morning, then I know my Soldiers have a regular source of replenishment and the level of resilience across the ranks will remain high.

For most people, the holidays can also serve as a source of support. Spending time with family and friends, time off of work and the spirit of the season can do wonders for invigorating the human soul. But the military is a demanding lifestyle and thousands of your fellow service members will be away from their loved ones this holiday season. For them and others, the holidays can be a huge draw on their well.

The personal commitment and concern of a dedicated leader is a huge source for replenishing a service member's well. Leaders must know how each of their subordinates intends to spend the holidays. Talk to them about their plans, make recommendations and even consider if there is room at your table to invite them for a meal over the holidays.

Leaders who know their troops will be able to identify factors impacting those they are responsible for. Being away from family (especially for the first time), spending the holidays alone, abusing alcohol and other substances, a broken relationship and financial burdens can all be major draws from a person's well. Be aware of the trials and stresses in your troops' lives and find ways to help them identify sources of replenishment.

One of the most powerful sources I have found is spiritual replenishment through service to others. When you do something nice and unexpected for someone else, it becomes a source not only for yourself, but also for the person you've served. If you're feeling like your well is running low, find an opportunity to do something nice for someone else. You may be surprised at how much better you will feel by making a difference in someone else's life.

My wife, Casey, and I hope you will make the most of this special time of year. Do everything you can to replenish your personal well of fortitude while looking for opportunities to serve others. Happy holidays.

Arctic Trailblazers - Put 'em across!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Leadership Lessons: Are you a team player?

By Maj. Scott Schofield, 319th Contracting Flight commander

Improve your perception of being a Team Player. Sometimes we have to sacrifice what we want for the betterment of the team, the big picture, and the Air Force.

I was a young second lieutenant and my supervisor surprised me with this comment on my mid-term feedback; I was mad. Things had come to a head between us after I had complained about being forced to "volunteer" at a unit fundraiser in September -- by far contracting's busiest month. Really, the issue had been brewing for a while. She had been pushing me to be more of a team player by helping out my colleagues and taking on additional duties within the squadron. My viewpoint was that by showing up every day and doing my job to the best of my abilities, I was helping the team and was, therefore, already a team player. There was no need to do those other things that would just cut into my free time.

In my defense, my approach had worked up to that point. I had graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy, had won every possible award during Air and Space Basic Course (the first officer professional military education course at the time), had been stratified No. 1 out of the trainees in our contracting squadron, and was on the cusp of winning a squadron annual award. So I thought that her marking down my leadership skills because I didn't "foster teamwork" and then including that comment about me not being a team player was unfair, and I was fired up.

The problem was her comment was spot-on.

My daily focus had been to do my best so I could win awards and earn stratifications in order to get the right assignments and advance my career. My supervisor was right; I wasn't a team player, and as much as I was in denial at the time, it was exactly what I needed to hear. It was, perhaps, the single most honest piece of feedback I have ever received.

After I completed in-residence graduate school, I was assigned my dream job at the airborne laser System Program Office. But again I thought there was a problem. I was assigned to a team doing tertiary research and development work that was only indirectly related to the overall program. I was frustrated and was itching for an opportunity to move down the hall and get my shot at the big time. Fortunately, my day came and I joined the contracting team that managed the main contracts to design, build, and test the airborne laser.

When I joined the team, I became one of many lieutenants and captains working in the various functional divisions. My initial attempts to get personal recognition were unsuccessful and I eventually gave up trying.

Fortunately, our program had entered an exciting time and we were marching through our flight test program en route to "shootdown" where we would use our massive flying laser to shoot missiles out of the sky with a beam of light. I immersed myself in the program and focused on being the best contracting officer that I could be and I routinely went above and beyond my primary duties to help the program in any way I could. The hours were long and the stress was, at times, almost unbearable, but I was having the time of my life. For the first time in my career, it wasn't about me. It was about the team. It was about being part of something bigger than me, and in this case, something historic. There was nowhere else I'd have rather been.

After we destroyed a boosting ballistic missile in 2010, the folks in our office were ecstatic. We had overcome tremendous adversity and had accomplished what many considered to be impossible. We were on top of the world, and it only got better a few months later when the Air Force Association awarded us the Theodore von Karman Award "for the most outstanding contribution in the field of science and engineering." It was one of the proudest accomplishments of my life and I suspect one of the few that I'll relay to my daughter and any future grandchildren long after my career is over.

But it came at a price. I made a lot of personal sacrifices during that time. I spent countless hours away from my wife and young daughter while I worked late nights and weekends in the office so I could help better the team, contribute to the big picture, and help provide a new and exciting technology to the Air Force. There were days I wanted to quit, but I continued on because so many of my teammates were sacrificing as well. We had come together as one and were able to accomplish something truly great -- something so much bigger and more important than we ever could have accomplished on our own.

Being part of such a great team rejuvenated my desire to serve in the Air Force and in the years since, I've had the fortune to serve with several more amazing folks and to have been a part of other great teams.

But in the end, I think it's our own attitude that makes the biggest difference in our careers. Being a team player and sacrificing what we want is hard. There's no getting around that, and there are times we just don't want to do it. But when we sacrifice for the betterment of the team, it makes the team stronger, more able to achieve the big picture, and to positively impact the Air Force in ways we often can't even imagine at the time.

Although it took me too long, I eventually learned the lesson my supervisor tried to teach me at the onset of my career, and I've found that being a team player has made my career much more enjoyable and more fulfilling than I ever thought it could be.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

How do you make a ‘whole person’?

Commentary by Air Force Master Sgt. Larry Bright
673d Communications Squadron

12/12/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Anyone who has spent any time at all around service members knows military language is filled with acronyms, clich├ęs and catch phrases. One catch phrase that has been around for as long as I can remember is the "whole-person concept." While the phrase itself has stood the test of time, I'm not sure the meaning has.

The whole person concept refers to the type of Airmen the Air Force wants to develop. An Air Force career is meant to be more than just a 9-to-5 job to pay the rent. It's meant to be a way of life.

Whether an Airman likes it or not, they represent the Air Force any time they wear the uniform or are around people who know they're an Air Force member. For this reason, the goal is to develop Airmen of good character, high standards and purposeful actions.

Too often the whole-person concept is translated as, "Go volunteer for something and take a class so I can write a couple of bullets about what a great person you are." While encouraging volunteerism and education are good things, the point is missed if it's only for the purpose of filling a block.

The purpose of getting involved in activities outside of work is to expand horizons and help Airmen realize there is a bigger picture than what goes on in their own lives. Volunteering to support base or community activities presents a way to represent the Air Force in a positive way. The recipients, the American public (a.k.a. taxpayers), are the ones paying military salaries. Improving their view and support of the Air Force is never a bad thing.
True education is always useful on some level, but if it's directed with a specific goal in mind, it's much more useful. The point has once again been missed if a course is taken only to fill a block. On the other hand, if an Airman decides to better themselves in a particular area, such as leadership, job knowledge, etc., and then selects classes to meet their goal, they're going after the whole person concept.

When you take the phrase "whole-person concept" purely at face value, doing things just to fill a block doesn't even make sense. That would be more like the "doing just enough to get by" concept. That isn't modeling the Air Force core values of integrity first and excellence in all we do.

So it's clear that for an individual to model the whole person concept they need to choose a lifestyle of supporting the community and bettering themselves as well as being a great Airman at work. But what about supervisors? What can they do to develop the whole person concept in their subordinates?

First and foremost, supervisors need to lead from the front. If a leader is trying to get their followers to do something they aren't willing to do themselves, they're doomed to fail.
So does that mean a supervisor needs to do everything all their subordinates are doing? Of course not. That may be impossible, depending on how many subordinates there are. Supervisors need to find the volunteer and education opportunities that work for them and encourage their subordinates to do the same. That takes us to the next point - helping subordinates find the opportunities that work for them.

The only way a supervisor can help Airmen find activities that are meaningful and customized to them is to know the Airmen. The best way to get to know them is through good formal and informal feedback. The lack of, need for and importance of feedback in the Air Force is another article in and of itself. The point is ... it's needed, required and there's no excuse for not providing it.

Formal feedback sessions are good opportunities to dig in and really find out what makes an Airman tick. It can be structured to find out what hobbies and interests the Airman has and start using that information to point them towards activities they can develop an interest in and get passionate about. The feedback session is also a great time to find out future education and/or career goals the Airman has and help them to take advantage of the many opportunities available. Day-to-day informal feedback is a great way to build on and fine-tune the knowledge base.

For the Airmen who are provided leading and mentoring, but still want to only do enough to get by, the supervisor has a responsibility. That is to rate the Airman accordingly. It's an injustice to the Airmen going out and embracing a lifestyle of integrity, service and excellence when those doing just enough to get by receive the same rating.

For the Airmen who embrace the core values and shine, support them and encourage them to shoot for the stars. Help them to develop a sustainable stride, and teach them how to become a leader ready to bring up the next generation. Now that's a recipe for a
whole person.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wisconsin Soldier recognized nationally for leadership following historic mission

December 11, 2013
By Tech. Sgt. Jon LaDue
Wisconsin National Guard

A Wisconsin Soldier who commanded his unit into the history books has received a national award for outstanding leadership.

Capt. Matthew Mangerson, of Milwaukee, was presented with the Brig. Gen. William C. Bilo Award Saturday (Dec. 7) in Stevens Point, Wis. The award is presented each year to the Army's best enlisted and commissioned officer in the country amongst the field artillery community.

"It was a bit of a surprise to me - I didn't anticipate being nominated let alone receiving an award like that," Mangerson said. "I was really set up for success by getting a unique mission and having a great group of Soldiers to accomplish that mission with."

Mangerson commands Battery B, 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery out of Plymouth, Wis. He led his unit of more than 75 Soldiers - and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) - to become the first HIMARS battery in the history of the National Guard to deploy to Afghanistan to conduct an artillery mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Although Mangerson is quick to credit the unit's success to his Soldiers, the unit first sergeant said it has to start from the top.
"His ability to work with all service members is unparalleled," said 1st Sgt. Steven Czekala. "He approaches everyone with the same professionalism and respect they deserve."

Mangerson, who has also deployed to Iraq twice, believes in taking care of his fellow service members and carries some advice he once received with him every day: "If you can go home at the end of the day and look at yourself in the mirror and honestly feel like you've done everything you can to take care of your Soldiers ... then you've done your job," he recalled.

He describes his leadership style as patient and simply striving to do what's right.

"To be able to feel like you're making a significant impact in people's lives, I think it's the most rewarding experience out there even it takes some time to see the results," Mangerson said.

Mangerson had only been in command of Bravo Battery for two months when news of the deployment hit - but that didn't stop his excitement level when he lobbied for his unit's chance to get the nod.

"I knew the historic nature of this mission and the battalion was actually determining which battery would be the one to deploy ... I put everything I could into selling our unit," Mangerson said. "When I found out we'd be the one to go I was very excited and I welcomed the challenge."

The Battery B Soldiers not only accepted the challenge and were successful at it - they set the standard for National Guard field artillery units going forward. Before the Bravo Battery Soldiers supported more than 400 missions and stood ready for fire support coverage, they had to write their own script on the mobilization process. Now, the third National Guard unit to deploy under the same mission is still using the script written by Wisconsin's field artillery Soldiers, Mangerson said.

"Any recognition that I'm getting as an individual ... is really a credit to the Soldiers that were in my unit, Mangerson stressed. "I just tried to do the right thing and do my job well. I wouldn't have been able to be successful if I didn't have the good group of Soldiers that I did."

Mangerson commissioned in 2004 through the ROTC program at Ripon College where he graduated with a bachelor's in mathematics education. He's been a traditional "M-Day" Soldier, serving one weekend each month, his entire career until recently being hired as the full-time battalion training officer for the 121st Field Artillery - a fitting assignment for someone who enjoys developing his troops.

"There's a lot of different leadership styles," Mangerson said. "I'm not particularly boisterous or aggressive in my leadership style. I tend to do a lot of listening.

"At the end of the day you know that you are responsible for whatever happens. You also know the work you've put in but realize that the average Soldier may not see it," he said. "Whether those Soldiers ever see it or not, it comes to fruition with the success of the mission."

Mangerson credited Czekala as being a great mentor and contributor to the mission. The feeling is mutual.

"On a personal level, I have found Capt. Mangerson excellent to work with," Czekala said. "He is very caring, selfless and the loyalty we have toward each other cannot be found anywhere else in the Army."