Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Leadership Lessons: Protecting the Castle

By Command Chief Master Sgt. David Duncan, 319th Air Base Wing command chief
Published March 29, 2014

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. (AFNS) -- In my position as the command chief, I always take advantage of the many opportunities to speak with Airmen. I often ask them several canned questions just to get the conversation rolling. "Where are you from?", "Why did you join the Air Force?", "Have you called your mom and dad lately?"

And finally I like to ask, "Why are you here?"

With this last question I have found each of us joins the Air Force for different reasons. But it is important that we get to the bottom of why our Airmen are actually here.

So far in my 28 years of Air Force life, I have held many jobs: maintenance, personnel, teaching, group superintendent and now command chief. The point here is not that I can't keep a job, rather in each of these jobs, I have felt no less a part of the Air Force than in any other one of these jobs. As a young Airman, I was taught to look at the Air Force from a holistic point of view. We all fit in there somewhere and if our jobs weren't important to the mission, they simply wouldn't exist.

That said, I also enjoy the good natured banter and competition between Air Force specialties. When I was a mechanic, we always complained about the electricians taking so much time on our engines. We used to say, "Sparky is holding us up again."

We always knew we needed their skills to complete our mission, but we all enjoyed picking on each other's AFSCs. I mean, who doesn't enjoy picking on pilots? Heck, I work for one, trust me it can be fun. However, the very second anyone of these conversations turns into a battle of who is more important to the Air Force mission, we have drifted into dangerous airspace. Bottom line: we should all respect the training and work we, and others around us, bring to the fight.

In November, I had the opportunity to attend the Enterprise Leadership Seminar at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business. During the seminar, our senior mentor, retired Gen. Gregory "Speedy" Martin, asked us a question that really stuck with me. But it wasn't until lately, with recent events here at the Air Force, that his question hit home with me. His question was, "Are you laying bricks, building a wall, or protecting the castle?"

To me, this question should make everyone take stock in what they bring to the fight for themselves, their wingmen, work center, squadron, group, wing, major command, Air Force and nation. As a young Airman, I never would have thought about my service on this level. But, as our Air Force continues to get smaller with the current force management reductions, I think we all need to stop for a moment and consider where we fit into the big picture.

Let me explain a little further. When I was the Force Support Squadron superintendent in Guam, there was a young Airman working the grill in our dining facility. One day, I asked him why he was here. He said, "Chief, all I do is cook eggs for people's breakfasts." I quickly realized he didn't understand the importance of his place in the Air Force. He could not see past the end of the grill. He was not aware, or did not believe, the breakfasts he prepared every morning fueled the fight. To him, he was simply laying bricks and didn't know why.

Later that morning, I was speaking with this Airman's NCOIC and I asked him the same question. His answer was, "I close out the breakfast meal and get ready for the lunch crowd, every day." I pushed a little further and asked why he was important to the wing's mission? He said he didn't really think he was since, "there were plenty of other people in the flight who could open and close the dining facility".

It was obvious to me this staff sergeant believed his purpose was simply to ensure all the brick layers (chefs) were performing their duties so he could open and close the dining facility on time. To me, he viewed himself as the guy building the wall. But he also lacked the understanding of why this wall needed to be built. No wonder his Airman was confused about the same subject.

Shortly after these incidents, one of our "friends" in Asia started acting up so we stood a few B-52s on alert in case they were needed, subsequently they were. During this time, I stopped in the dining facility and saw that same Airman and staff sergeant. They were fired up and motivated and were telling me about their importance to the wing's mission. I honestly thought someone was playing a joke on me. It turns out the dining facility manager, Tech. Sgt. Johnson, had a sit down with his staff and discussed the importance of their work to the wing's mission. He quickly and easily made a direct tie between the grill and every position on base, to include the pilots flying those B-52s. You see: He got it! He understood his chefs weren't just laying bricks or building a wall. He was able to make them see they were helping to protect the castle. We can't all have those military-sexy jobs the recruiting commercials show. However, those commercials don't really show every AFSC, but if you listen closely, they do speak to the importance of every Air Force member.

Again, as the Air Force continues to get smaller, it becomes even more critical each Airman understands the importance of their daily work. Recently departed Maj. Gen. A. J. Stewart once said, "The U.S. Air Force is concerned about quality of character, quality of effort ... if you want to just get by, don't come to the U.S. Air Force."

You see, General Stewart also got it. With his quote in mind, we need to work harder at building stronger relationships between each other and with our community partners. Specifically, we need to do a better job looking out for each other in terms of stopping all unprofessional behavior, including sexual assaults and intoxicated driving, to name a few. This is yet another way we protect the castle.

In order to build these relationships, it is imperative that we quickly understand, acknowledge and execute our duty to intervene. If we see fellow Airmen about to do something stupid, we intervene and stop them. If we happen upon information concerning an event that has already taken place, we stand up and do the right thing, we don't remain silent. Covering up for your buddy is not being a Wingman -- it is being an accomplice to wrongdoing and should be dealt with accordingly. Intervening is clearly an additional way in which we protect the castle.

In the end, I guess it really comes down to my original question, "Why are you here?" I hope you now realize this question is a little deeper than you might have originally thought. Are you the one who will be in a position to help save someone, but will choose not to? Or, are you the one who can't see the bigger picture and doesn't realize how important your job is to the Air Force mission. Are you simply laying bricks and building a wall or are you here for the right reason -- protecting the castle. I hope this is why we are all here!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Toxic Boss Blues

The March 29, 2014, episode of American Heroes Radio features a conversation with law enforcement professional and author of Toxic Boss Blues Steve Neal.

Program Date:  March 29, 2014
Program Time: 1500 hours, PACIFIC
Topic: Toxic Boss Blues

About the Guest
Steve Neal "served as a law enforcement officer in Virginia for 29 years. During his tenure he was fortunate to experience a wide range of assignments which included Uniform Operations, Criminal Investigations, Covert Operations, Director of the Emergency Communications Center, Director of Training, Support Services Commander, and Inspector for the Office of Professional Standards. He has comprehensive knowledge on the subject of selection and development of a public safety workforce, expertise regarding covert investigations, and a special affinity for media relations."  Steve Neal is the author of Toxic Boss Blues.

According to the book description of Toxic Boss Blues, "Steve Neal takes you inside the world of noxious mismanagement, exposing the consequences of toxic supervisory behavior. Straight talk from a tough cop who offers respectful and artistic leadership tactics makes Toxic Boss Blues appealing to anyone who has ever tangled with a difficult manager."

About the Watering Hole
The Watering Hole is police slang for a location cops go off-duty to blow off steam and talk about work and life.  Sometimes funny; sometimes serious; but, always interesting.
About the Host
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster was a sworn member of the Los Angeles Police Department for 24 years.  He retired in 2003 at the rank of Lieutenant.  He holds a bachelor’s from the Union Institute and University in Criminal Justice Management and a Master’s Degree in Public Financial Management from California State University, Fullerton; and, has completed his doctoral course work. Raymond E. Foster has been a part-time lecturer at California State University, Fullerton and Fresno; and is currently a Criminal Justice Department chair, faculty advisor and lecturer with the Union Institute and University.  He has experience teaching upper division courses in law enforcement, public policy, law enforcement technology and leadership.  Raymond is an experienced author who has published numerous articles in a wide range of venues including magazines such as Government Technology, Mobile Government, Airborne Law Enforcement Magazine, and Police One.  He has appeared on the History Channel and radio programs in the United States and Europe as subject matter expert in technological applications in law enforcement.

Listen from the Archive:

Program Contact Information
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA

Concern, action trump perfection in supervisors

By Chief Master Sgt. Matt Proietti, Air Force Reserve Command Yellow Ribbon Program / Published March 26, 2014

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFNS) -- One of the best senior NCOs I've ever worked with was a troubled man whose personal demons cost him his career.

This senior master sergeant was an alcoholic whose drinking caused him to be sent back early from an overseas assignment in 1987 when he was about the age I am now. He landed in my office in California. A year later, shortly after I left active-duty service for the Air Force Reserve, he barricaded himself in a hotel room and went on a bender during a conference at our major command headquarters. He was forced to retire.

Despite this, he otherwise was a good leader to the handful of enlisted people on the staff and took good care of the office, in general.

Living on a steady diet of coffee and cigarettes, he looked a good 10 years older than he was. He was a bundle of energy who didn't so much walk down our halls as dash. Like me, he was a New England native and had a thick Yankee accent despite having lived outside of the region for much of his life. He was loud, too, and had a thousand old military sayings that connected a staff of Airmen from the 1980s to the earliest years of our service.

I liked him immediately and, more importantly, I respected him because he was there to work. I'm sure the officer in charge of our shop was nervous about inheriting this damaged old sergeant, but he turned out to be a blessing to us. His imprint was all over that place as soon as he arrived.

He was the ultimate practitioner of "management by walking around." If you hadn't seen him in a bit, you would shortly. His room was across the hall from where I worked with two other young Airmen, and he poked his head in the door throughout the day.

"What's with all the levity in hee-ah?" he would say before smiling broadly, turning on his heels and disappearing back to his stack of paperwork or to the main office next door so everyone knew he was available if needed, which he was.

He was a master on the phone. He had a way of making the most inconsequential things sound important to the person on the other end of the line so he would get the help he needed to complete a task. I, too, prefer to use the phone or go in person when I need help with something and attribute that to the example he set more than a quarter-century ago.

He nearly paralyzed a timid staff sergeant in our shop by asking to see a copy of the office budget upon meeting her. Everyone suspected she wasn't paying it proper attention, but we didn't know quite how to tell. He did. He immediately identified some problems and set about fixing them with her. He didn't disparage her publicly, though I'm sure they had a private talk about her fulfilling her duties.

He exuded confidence in his Airmen, which made us believe in ourselves. I lived in a dormitory on base and got a phone call from him one weekend night. Our unit had kicked off a surprise exercise to test our skills responding to a mock aircraft crash. He was with the crisis action team and needed me to work "on scene," a location near the imitation accident site where representatives from various base agencies met to gather accurate information to guide our response to the situation. I had never done it before, and he sensed my nervousness.

"I need you to do it. I can't reach anybody else. You'll be fine," he said.

Because I recognized that he knew his business, I trusted him in sending me there. He was right: I did a good job.

Even a flawed person can be a great mentor or leader. He didn't simply know the names of my favorite sports teams or rock musicians. He knew about my plans in life. He knew about my family background. He knew about my dreams. He met my friends from other units around base and asked them about their jobs and their goals. You can't fake the sort of interest he held in other people's lives. His concern was genuine.

He worked hard all day, every day and that - coupled with that outrageous accent -- would be enough for him to stick out in my mind. What cemented him there, though, was the direct action he took at a crucial point in my life that still pays dividends for me today.

Around March 1, 1988, the Air Force announced that it was forcing out people whose service contracts ended later that year if they had decided not to reenlist. We had to leave by April 30. I made cursory plans to return to my hometown, but still had a job to do for the Air Force and focused on doing it well until the end. A few weeks before I left the service, he called me into his office.

"You like the Air Force, don't you?" he asked. I said that I did.

"You like your job, right?" That was obvious to anyone.

I thought he was trying to convince me to stay on active duty. Instead, he suggested that I consider the Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard. He said making some money at an occupation I was comfortable with would help with my transition to civilian life. He knew I was moving back to Massachusetts so, with my approval, he picked up the phone right then and called back to the wing at Westover Air Reserve Base. He told someone in the public affairs office a little about me and wrote something down on a slip of paper. He thanked the person, hung up and handed me the note.

"Call this number when you get home," he said. "It's your new office."

That's how easy it was for me to join the Air Force Reserve 26 years ago. The short notice the Air Force gave me to leave the service left no time for a Reserve or Guard recruiter to contact me. Without this senior NCO's perception and effort on my behalf, I may have left the Air Force for good at 22. Instead, I will serve at least until 50.

I worked under this imperfect man for no more than eight months but he left a lasting impression on me. I don't think the Air Force erred in making him retire. I regret that he didn't get his drinking under control because the service lost one heck of a resource when he took off the uniform.

(Proietti is an individual mobilization augmentee with the Air Force Public Affairs Agency in San Antonio and public affairs manager of the Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon Program at Robins AFB, Ga.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hagel, Dempsey Stress Leaders’ Roles in Ethical Issues

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2014 – Leadership is key to eliminating ethical lapses that have tarnished the reputation of the American military, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said during a Pentagon Channel interview broadcast today.

The secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff both reiterated that encouraging ethical behavior and strengthening the profession of arms has their full attention. Reports of sexual misconduct at many levels and cheating on proficiency exams brought the issue to the fore, and senior department leaders are concerned.

Setting high standards and then meeting them are what the U.S. military is all about, Hagel said. “We’ve always had quality people in the military, and we will continue to have them,” he added.

But it will require constant and laser-like focus on the issue, the secretary said.

“This is a force that has endured tremendous pressures and strain over the last 13 years,” Hagel said. “That’s not an excuse for bad behavior or certainly illegal behavior. We need to reinvigorate our ethics and our character. Chairman Dempsey has done a tremendous job on this, and I want to help him and our chiefs accomplish that mission.”

The chairman said it was not the war itself that caused the issue, but rather the pace at which the military has been operating. That pace caused leaders to neglect “some of the safety nets, if you will, that we’ve traditionally relied upon to make sure we’re living up to the values of our profession,” he said.

Those safety nets include command climate surveys and deployments not to war, but to schools. It also includes giving service members the time to reflect on experiences and to examine those experiences for lessons, he said.

“As well, it is time for us to take a look at ourselves as a profession, because we haven’t done so for about 20 years,” Dempsey said. “This is the right time, in the right place, with the right people to make sure we are doing what’s right for the country.”

If the military can get a handle on these lapses, it will retain the good will of the American people, the chairman said.

“I think the American people are enormously supportive of the military,” he added, “and of course the reason we’re taking this issue so seriously -- the issue of ethical behavior and professionalism -- is precisely because we don’t want to lose the esteem and trust of the American people.”

U.S. service members come from society and bring to the military all that society teaches them, Hagel said. “You are not born a military professional,” the secretary said. “You are nurtured and shaped and molded by the society you come from. But when you project yourself into the military and you take an oath of office, you immediately hold yourself to a higher standard.”

This doesn’t mean military personnel are better people, he added, but that they are committing themselves to the highest possible standards of professionalism and ethical behavior. “That’s conducting yourself always in an ethical way,” Hagel said.

Both men stressed that character and competence are not incompatible. “They must go hand in hand,” Hagel said. “Every institution is only as good as its people.”

Dempsey said the military must pay as much attention to character as it does to competence. This will continue to define the U.S. military long into the future, at war or at peace, he added.

Hagel announced yesterday that he asked Navy Rear Adm. Margaret “Peg” Klein to be his special advisor for military professionalism. She will report directly to the secretary and will head an office that works with the chairman and his team and with all of the services’ civilian and military leaders. She will look to incorporating ethics and character training everywhere it is needed.

“I’ve done this in coordination with Chairman Dempsey and the other chiefs to establish this office that would help coordinate, integrate and help define these programs,” Hagel said.

In closing, both men stressed leadership.

“All the issues we have been talking about are going to be solved through good solid leadership of a kind that has always marked us as a profession,” Dempsey said. “I suppose the message would be to pay particular attention now as we conclude a decade of conflict and as we struggle with changes to resources that are creating uncertainties in the ranks.

“We’ll get through all this,” the chairman continued, “and we’ll do what’s right for the nation if, and only if, we lead.”.

Hagel stressed leadership and accountability.

“Leadership is about holding people accountable to high standards,” he said, “and I don’t know of an institution in the world that has higher standards -- personal standards -- than the military.”

Defenders take it to the edge

by Senior Airman Desiree Economides
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

3/25/2014 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan  -- Approximately 20 NCOs and SNCOs from Security Forces Squadrons throughout Japan attended the training course, Defender's Edge, March 17-19 at the Taiyo Community Center at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

The three-day resiliency course utilizes lectures and scenario-based modules.

"We take psychological concepts and train them on the relevant aspects to embed in their daily operations and training," said Deloria Wilson, a psychologist at the Headquarters Air Force Security Forces Center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. "Different components are meant to enhance the physical, social, spiritual and psychological edge. A lot is based in sports and law enforcement psychology."

Defender's Edge is not just an ordinary training program, but a cultural paradigm developed for defenders by defenders.

"Defenders have a unique mission... They might be exposed to certain things and they have a great responsibility in terms of defending the base," said Wilson. "Security forces leadership recognized that and wanted to make sure Airmen were specifically prepared for that mission."

The Air Force offers a number of programs to assist those in need; however, this course is tailored specifically to meet the needs of security forces , said Maj. Stephen Stouder, a trainer from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.

The course covers seven distinct modules using sports and law enforcement psychology. In these modules, Airmen learn the basics of how their stress response system operates, how to regulate it, and also techniques to help control pressures in their daily lives.

"I want to be able to convey to my subordinates that they are going to have hard times and stress, but they need to know the skills to manage it," said Tech. Sgt. Trendell Cole, 374th Security Forces Squadron. "Also, it teaches me how to forward those needing help and how to identify those that need additional assistance."

Defender's Edge will eventually be incorporated into formal schools for security forces, but is currently being offered through courses in coordination with the major commands. Trainers will also be able to provide feedback and receive additional training online.

"This isn't just a training package, this is about getting a lifestyle put into the culture," said Wilson. "Security forces Airmen are inherently already strong. We are focusing on giving them more tools to keep the sword sharp and the shield strong.