Leadership News

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Innovation: Never stop improving

Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station commander / Published September 30, 2015

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. (AFNS) -- "Another article on innovation?" you say. I don't have to tell you that there are more challenges across the Air Force than any time that I can recall: manning reductions, reduced budgets, infrastructure we can no longer afford, new requirements; response to advanced cyber threats, and the cherry on top, sequestration. As a result, our leaders navigate the Air Force through and around the turbulent air these challenges create. However, maintaining the best Air Force on the planet, through these challenges, isn't solely the job of our leaders, nor is it a one-time thing. We must continually innovate.

The Air Force is renowned for innovation. There are historical markers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where the Wrights innovated flight controls. At the end of the last century, the Air Force developed technology that made aircraft virtually invisible to radar. Your Air Force developed and maintains global precision navigation and timing that not only assures the accuracy of weapons and maintains the ability of networked computers to communicate, but has permeated our daily lives. The Air Force has been innovating since we were born from the Army Air Corps 68 years ago, and we keep innovating, at all levels.

This year, the Air Force is innovating by consolidating mission support under the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center. Major commands are innovating by consolidating staff functions; wings are finding innovative ways to prioritize missions and resources. At the unit level, each of us can be innovative in the areas within our span of control. A civil engineering squadron might develop processes for leveraging infrared imaging technology to reduce the number or frequency of hands-on inspections, disassembly and reassembly they would have done in the past. Maintenance squadrons are leveraging technology for electronic technical orders. Logistics readiness squadrons have streamlined supply and deployment processing. However, none of us should settle on these things or ever think there are no more improvements to be made.

Effective innovation starts in the areas you know and can control. For example, all of us may have a good idea on how to shorten the wait at the pharmacy, but only those in the medical field understand all that has to go into filling your prescription in compliance with the law and Air Force instructions. You will be able to find more ways to improve within your own work center than the pharmacy.

Second, challenge the way it's always been done. There may be a valid reason that put into place the instructions, procedures, tech order, manual or Air Force instruction to do things a certain way, but there is probably a better way.

Third, run innovative ideas past your coworkers, supervisors or leaders, and benefit from their experience. They can help refine and improve upon your proposal.

Fourth, there are various ways to put innovation in place. An Air Force Technical Order Form 22 can improve a tech order or exceptions to manuals and instructions are possible.

Over the last few years, our wing successfully used a wing-developed Requirements Assessment and Compliance Tool and achieved nearly $500 million in cost savings and avoidance, mitigated more than 200 manpower billet cuts and shortfalls, and advocated for and received more than $300 million in funding. The program was highlighted as the best by secretary of the Air Force, SecAF/Headquarters Air Force organizations, Air Force Space Command, 14th Air Force commanders and AFSPC/Inspector General. It is a "highly effective" Strategic Planning Process and Continuous Process Improvement program. ReACT helped achieve 48 Air Force-level best practices and has high impact for the 21st Space Wing. In fact, here at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, we are pursuing some of those ReACT benefits in our communications and civil engineer squadrons.

The best Air Force-wide resource is the Airmen Powered by Innovation program. It enables ideas, vets and validates them through experts, leverages Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century where needed, provides a process for implementation, and tracks the best ideas to completion. API, released in 2014 and codified in AFI 38-402, “Manpower and Organization” seeks input from every Airman on how to make our Air Force more effective or more efficient.

The bottom line is that you are the key to innovation. Together, each one of us has the knowledge to improve ourselves and our mission. We must figure out how to do the mission with less people and fewer dollars, yet maintain the best Air Force on Earth. Each of us can play a part. The tools are available to help us get better. With your help, we will always improve. Never stop innovating!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Carter: DoD Provides 'Unconditional' Support for 'Lean In Circles'

By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, September 21, 2015 — The Defense Department is providing "unconditional" support for "Lean In Circles," or peer-to-peer mentoring groups, to help in empowering women and to propel them into leadership roles, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today.

Carter sat in on a Lean In Circle at the Pentagon today with Sheryl Sandberg, the best-selling author of "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead." Sandberg is the founder of LeanIn.Org and the chief operating officer of Facebook.

More than a dozen women of various ranks from  across the services took part in today's circle, including Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, Army Brig. Gen. Patricia Frost, and retired Army Gen. Ann Dunwoody, the first woman in the U.S. military to achieve the rank of four-star general.

DoD Support for Circles

The Defense Department, Carter said, will provide space and time for service members and civilians to participate in the circles. The meetings are voluntary and open to everyone. The secretary added that he highly encourages everyone to "take advantage of DoD spaces made available before, after or during work hours" for these meetings, whether in the Pentagon or around the globe.

The circles are an "investment in our people and our future," he said, explaining that the meetings boost morale and productivity and help to build diverse leadership.

"Our people make us the best; to stay the best, we need to keep up with current trends in talent management," the secretary said. "These circles have a proven record of empowering women throughout our ranks, and giving men a way to lean in also and support their female colleagues and improve themselves."

Women 'Mission Critical' in Military

The participants in today's circle talked about "institutional barriers" in the military, Sandberg said, noting a "leadership gap" that she said exists in every industry in the United States along with an "unconscious bias" in dealing with gender and race.

"Nine percent of our generals are female; less than 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are female," she said. A problem, she added, is that women often are placed in roles, such as support jobs, that are less likely to get promoted into CEO or general officer positions.

"The good news is that we can change this," she said.

Having women in the top roles in the military is "mission critical" in building the force needed to defend the United States and its values around the world, Sandberg said.

The military is the largest employer in the nation, and historically has a leader in social change, Sandberg noted. "If the United States military can get this right, other industries will follow, and today is part of that," she said.

"I have great admiration for the women and men who serve in uniform or are part of the Department of Defense civilians, she said. “I have special admiration for the women, because you fight for equality with every step you take every day you come to work. A more diverse force is a stronger force."

Important Discussions

Frost, the deputy commanding general for operations at U.S. Army Cyber Command, said she holds an informal “fitness group” Lean In Circle. The discussions allow her to hear the challenges and concerns of members and get the "pulse" on some of the things going on in her command, she said.

Having "open conversations" is important in moving women forward in the military, the general said. While the circles give women a chance to talk about their challenges, she added, it also benefits men.

"I think we really have had a success story when it is men and women, and we are discussing how women can mentor men about women," Frost said. "I don't know that men know some of the biases that they have, and I just don't think they see it."

Air Force Master Sgt. Heather Morales, who has a Lean In Circle at the Pentagon, said today's discussions focused on what is holding women back in the military, and some of the things the women were experiencing at their bases or had experienced throughout their careers.

"It's very important to have these discussions, and especially at this level -- to have the secretary of defense and the secretary of the Air Force engaged to solve these issues -- because many of the problems that exist, some are related to biases that people don't even know that they have," she said.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What it means to be a good wingman

by Airman 1st Class Collin Schmidt
341st Missile Wing Public Affairs

9/16/2015 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont.  -- Being a good wingman may not always be an easy task. Sometimes, it requires people to go above and beyond what is normally asked of them. For Senior Airman Thaddeus Johnson, 341st Force Support Squadron customer support apprentice, a quick response and the will to go the extra mile in order to help a fellow Airman was exactly what was required of him, and he rose to the challenge.

Midway through a seemingly normal workday, Johnson met with an Airman during a routine appointment to help him take care of some paperwork. It was during this appointment that Johnson noticed the Malmstrom team member display signs of serious stress.

"During our appointment, this Airman had made some comments where I knew he was in need of help," Johnson said. "It was easy to see something was wrong. As I spent more time with him, I knew whatever was troubling him was severe and that he needed a helping hand.

"I had never expected to be put in a situation like this but I am thankful to have been in the right place at the right time," he continued.

After finishing his appointment with the Team Malmstrom member, Johnson exchanged numbers and let the Airman know that he was there to help, that he was not alone in whatever was troubling him.

A short while later, after speaking with leadership on what to do with the situation, Johnson contacted the team member, found where he was and put his work on hold to stay with him until proper care could be provided.

"Being a wingman means that you're there for your fellow Airmen," said Johnson. "On duty, off duty, no matter what; it means to be there when it counts.

"I feel confident knowing that I have someone there who is going to keep me on the right path," he continued. "I know that I have someone there who is going to do the same thing for me that I would do for them.  In this case, an Airman came in who needed assistance and I just offered him the help that would have been given to me by my wingmen."

According to Johnson, we all fall and have our own respective issues that we deal with on a daily basis but it is the way that we handle them and get back up that makes the person.

Offering the help he did was not an extraordinary act, he believes, but just the observance of a fellow Airman in need and the will to act on it.

"You can always get back up from where you've fallen from," Johnson said. "I've been down before, we all have. It's not how you start, it's how you finish. To establish our core values - Integrity first, Service before self and Excellence in all we do - we need each other."

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Face of Defense: Airman Finds Calling by Helping Others

By Air Force Senior Airman Adarius Petty, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing DoD News Features, Defense Media Activity

CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev., September 16, 2015 — Is this the job for me? Did I pick the right career field? Those are questions many airmen ask themselves throughout their Air Force careers.

Air Force Tech Sgt. Noah Stamps, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing command chief's executive assistant, has firsthand experience with that same situation.

Stamps said he was not always fond of his job. He first joined the Air Force in 2002 as a security forces airman at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota -- an assignment notorious for its challenging winter weather.

"It's Minot, and it gets down to negative 60 degrees in the winter, and as an SF member you would do a lot of outside work," Stamps said. "So when you're out in negative 60-degree weather, and you have to perform with excellence and integrity, those kinds of conditions can test your excellence, integrity and your dedication to service. So being expected to perform in that type of weather, there's nothing easy about that."

Leadership Impressions

Although the climate at his first base was somewhat difficult to endure, Stamps said one of the pros about his first base was his phenomenal leadership who valued morale, promoting the idea of "comprehensive airmen fitness" before it was popularized throughout the service.

He credits having great leaders who valued taking care of their airmen for shaping his future outlook on how he would value his airmen and those around him.

"I'm a firm believer in that if you take care of airmen 100 percent of the time, they will take care of the mission 100 percent of the time with 100 percent of their effort," Stamps said. "If you are focused on the mission and forget about the people, both will suffer."

As he progressed through the ranks, he said the feeling of wanting to make a difference in the Air Force and take care of airmen every day steadily grew. It was at this point in his career, Stamps said, that he decided to apply for retraining.

"I wanted to retrain -- to help airmen in a different way," he said. "I had great mentors who helped with my decision to stay in the Air Force. They got me to realize what my gifts are, what my talents are and where they can be used."

In 2006, a career as a photojournalist seemed to suit Stamps' gifts, but a few months before leaving for technical training, the Air Force merged public affairs and visual information career fields, which reduced the number of airmen in the career field. Stamps said he was once again left wondering what to do next.

Finding His Place

"My next two choices to retrain were to be a firefighter or a chaplain's assistant," he recalls. "Being a new husband and dad left me feeling like a career as a firefighter wasn't for me, so I choose to be a chaplain's assistant. I loved the idea of helping people out in a different capacity."

It wasn't long before the need to discover different ways to make an impact on airmen and their careers pushed Stamps to apply to be an Airman Leadership School professional military education instructor. In September 2009, he joined the ALS team at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

"Teaching PME was a transforming experience for me," he recalls. "My impression of teaching prior to stepping into the classroom was that I would be the one imparting my vast knowledge on a generation of new staff sergeants. The reality is that they had a lot to teach me. I learned more from my students than they did from me."

Stamps said plenty of people tried to discourage him from being an instructor, but he continued to apply for the special duty position until he was eventually picked for the job. He said it taught him a lesson he likes to pass along.

"Always pursue your passion," he said. "There are so many people who join the Air Force and are given an Air Force Specialty Code, given a job. A lot of people grow into loving their job. Some people don't, and if you don't grow into loving what the Air Force has given you, then you needed find something that is going to help you pursue your passion."

Experience Into Wisdom

Stamps said stepping out of his comfort zone proved beneficial to his career development into a noncommissioned officer.

His 13-year career now includes multiple special duty assignments, two AFSC's, three deployments, graduating 22 ALS PME classes and holding a total of four jobs. He said that experience has prepped him to give advice to help other airmen who may be wondering what the Air Force has in store for them as well.

"Sergeant Stamps is full of immense knowledge and has been a key mentor of mine for about a year now," said Air Force Senior Airman Andrew Ingersoll, 432nd WG/432nd AEW executive administration specialist. "His leadership and mentorship have guided me in the right direction, not only with career decisions but also in life decisions."

Impacting the airmen beneath him isn't the only task that Stamps is focused on.
"It is easy to see how Sergeant Stamps' diverse career and breadth of experience has made him such a resilient leader," said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Michael Ditore, the wing's command chief master sergeant. "It is an awesome sight to watch him engage with airmen of all ranks as he provides mentoring, counseling, and many other wingman fundamentals. Noah is an NCO who leads by example and exemplifies our core values of integrity, service, and excellence."