My Retirement Salute to Airmen
General Colin Powell once explained, “Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible.” Many of the Airmen I know embody the words of our former CJCS and Secretary of State. Over the last 20 years of service, Airman across the Air Force have deployed to key operations, endured many challenges and devised action plans to operate with reduce budgets under less than ideal circumstances. In addition to AF wide challenges, our Active, Guard, and Reserve have supported the stand-up of new operations, endured transitions within the aviation community, and supported the growth of various aviation missions. Furthermore, our Quiet Professionals continue to manage ever-changing battlefield operations and many other unique responsibilities–some more well-known than others.
As General Colin Powell reflected on his tenure, he wrote a work entitled “Lessons Learned”. Lessons Learned gives advice to future leaders who will be charged with accomplishing tough daily challenges. I would like to share a few of his thoughts of reflection, as he offered some key lessons he learned during his tenure:
Lesson 1: Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.
Lesson 4: Don’t be afraid to challenge the pro’s, even in their own backyard.
Lesson 14: Great Leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution anybody can understand.
We do a great job at the lessons listed above, but
I am not convinced that all of our Airmen know just how valuable you are to the mission and realize how valuable your input is to leadership.
The HQ staff needs input from leaders at EVERY level of operations. The fancy power points presented at the Pentagon are derived from our efforts (i.e. training, flying hours, scheduling, finance, etc). The information is derived as a result of the late nights and weekends we work! General Powell summed this best in another lesson point:
Lesson 16: The commander in the field is always right and the rear is wrong, unless proved otherwise.
So that this lesson is not misunderstood and taken too literally, the General explained these remarks. He explained that leaders closest to the mission are normally the ones who are able to offer the best solutions to their own difficulties. They require the support of the leaders who can assist and create the policy. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? The leaders who are working in the Gunship squadron will be able to identify with an operation where the unit is deployed more days of the year than they reside at home; whereas Airmen in the RPA(remotely piloted aircraft) cell can identify with the unique situation of working in a combat operational environment nearly every day at home station.
The Airmen across our commands are remarkable leaders who embrace many of the lessons learned the General discussed. Airmen: Make sure you continue to live them and continue to support the greatest Air Force our world has known. You make contributions and sacrifices to a society that may never completely understand or know. In case you haven’t been told lately: THANK YOU FOR YOUR SACRIFICE. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!
As I exit the military I will enter into a venture to continue to serve our Airmen, Marines, Soldiers and Sailors. I salute the service of Airman around the globe. My sincere thanks.