One mile at a time
By Col. Rick Cornelio, 319th Maintenance Squadron commander
/ Published March 16, 2009
GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- "I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people." (Mohandas K. Gandhi)
This year our wing embraced a new way of thinking about leadership. One that goes beyond what some people would expect ...and challenges us as individuals to think about our whole environment, about all those around us, and how we influence their lives. We have read of real life examples over the past few weeks that should encourage each of us to find the ways we can grow as a second-mile leader. I believe the core of second-mile leadership is fostering relationships with individuals in and out of your workplace, home or community -- whether you're a supervisor or subordinate, military, civilian or family member, we are all one TEAM. However, as you venture forth into that second mile of leadership, don't forget the importance of the first mile ... because you cannot be successful in completing both miles if you short changed yourself or those around you during the first mile. A critical tool in making it through that first mile is understanding and commitment to our Air Force core values.
General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who served as commander of U.S. Central Command and commander of all Coalition Forces in the Gulf War of 1991 had this to say about leadership, "Leadership is a combination of strategy and character. If you must be without one, be without the strategy." This fits nicely into the first of our core values which demands "integrity first." Without integrity and sound character, you cannot build successful and healthy relationships because you will not have gained the trust of those around you. In my mind, this includes traits such as courage, honesty, responsibility, accountability, openness, self respect and humility. Within the maintenance community, we succeed or fail through our strict adherence to technical orders and Air Force Instructions. Our relationships we have with our customers, the aircrews who fly our jets, are centered on trust and faith in character. Yet on occasion, we find someone who pencil-whips forms or decides not to follow T.O.s or AFIs. It is a rare event, however once is too much, and we need to rely on one another to make sure this doesn't happen and, when it does, correct it with the right measures. The responsibility to do so is not solely something for officers or senior NCOs, but instead falls on each of us, regardless of rank or position. If we don't model the behaviors that we value, then our actions, or non-actions, speak far more loudly than words.
We've always known that the backbone to our Air Force is our NCO corps and the NCO creed sets the tone for building relationships: "I will strive to know my people and use their skills to the maximum degree possible. I will always place their needs above my own and will communicate with my supervisor and my people and never leave them uniformed." I ask each of you to commit, like our NCOs have committed, to build those relationships and strive to make everyone around us better.
Our second core value, "service before self" describes how we must have respect for others and "always act in the certain knowledge that all persons possess a fundamental worth as human beings." I ask you to reflect on where you are in this commitment and how you can improve yourself and those around us, both inside the gates and outside them.
Finally, our third core value "excellence in all we do" sets the tone on how we attack our day-to-day competencies with a passion for success that's second to none. This excellence we strive for includes exceeding our customer's requirements, as well as expanding our personal excellence through professional growth and improving of our physical and mental being. "Excellence in all we do" should always drive us to proudly and strongly march the first mile, and then, without looking back, start on the second.
This week at our maintenance Knucklebuster banquet, I have the distinct pleasure of recognizing a group of professionals who have exceeded our core values on a daily basis. Most will be from my group, but we've expanded the recognition outside the group to our TEAMmates in the 319th Logistics Readiness Squadron who stand shoulder to shoulder with us in supporting the wing's mission. All of these individuals have stood out this past year -- exceeding in both the first- and second-miles of leadership. They have built the relationships required to excel and have expanded them to bring those around them together for the common cause.
The Air Mobility Command Director of Logistics, Brig. Gen. Kenneth "Merch" Merchant, will provide inspirational words as he congratulates our nominees, award winners and all the "loggies" in attendance for their incredible performance. While I know his words will be remarkable, I have no doubt the most memorable aspect of his visit will be what he takes back to Scott AFB, Ill., ... an understanding of the unsurpassed quality of the people who support and generate sorties in AMC's harshest environment. Day in and day out, there are none better.