By Col. Joe L. Lindsey, 319th Mission Support Group Commander
/ Published September 25, 2013
GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Five months ago, while reviewing paperwork at my desk, I received an e-mail notification with the subject line that read "Curious." My immediate reaction was making a face with "puzzled" written all over it because I don't normally receive e-mails with such a title. I stopped what I was doing and opened the message. It read, "Is this the same Joe Lindsey I was stationed with at Langley in the early 2000s?" After reading the message, I noticed the name in the signature block, and I began to smile. The e-mail was from Col. Robert "Roc" Rocco whom I worked with at the Air and Space Expeditionary Force Center 12 years ago. I was a captain. He was a major and a mentor. My response back to him confirmed I was indeed the same Joe Lindsey. Roc's follow-up e-mail and its attachment choked me up, framing a leadership story that I will share for the rest of my life. Roc stated the reason he reached out was to inform me that he'd written a commentary for his base paper about me. The commentary was entitled Be the One.
In the commentary, Roc tells the reader one of the things that stood out about me was my car's license plate that read, "BE THE 1." He went on to say that during lunch one day at a mom-and-pop Italian restaurant, he asked me, "What does 'BE THE 1' mean?" He recalls my response was straightforward and quoted me as saying--"Whenever there was a challenge in my life, a mission, or project a commander at any level needed work on, I want to be the one he/she calls to get the job done!" Roc further stated over the years, he often considered the significance of those three simple words, posing the following questions:
When my boss called, was I eager to research, study, engage and solve a problem or was I content to sit back, hope and watch others get the tough jobs done. Was I the one who could put doing what's right ahead of doing what was easy or was I the one content with status quo? As a commander, I often ask myself, "Have I guided those I lead with a tenacious 'BE THE 1' attitude or did I pull the reins and slow them down for the sake of personal comfort?" I'm often told that nearly every Airman wants to be successful...what have I done to encourage that success--to encourage each of my Airmen to "BE THE 1?"
These days, vanity license plates aren't affixed to my car. As I've gotten older, I've toned it down just a little. However, my three sons will tell you that I need to tone it down a lot more. Be that as it may, what hasn't changed is my steadfast belief in a proactive approach to making things better through personal engagement and empowerment! Although not considered at the time, "BE THE 1" was my vision of expected behavior. Every member of a group has a responsibility to aggressively seek ways to improve situations in order for the family, squadron, group, wing or Air Force to be victorious--despite the ever-changing external environment.
My vision for the 319th Mission Support Group is "Creating the change we want to see to improve service to others." A leader must establish a clearly defined vision. The vision should clarify the direction of the organization and help members understand why and how to support the organization. If members understand what's expected and what the organization is trying to accomplish, it becomes possible to make important decisions at lower levels--creating a climate in which results and progress continually occur. It comes down to this ... how can you expect someone to reach your destination, when you haven't provided the address? Leaders should empower Airmen to think creatively, find new solutions, and make decisions. During a recent speech (entitled, "Empower Airmen To Do What They Think Is Best") given by our Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Welsh, he indicated there's a great need for leaders to empower our Airmen better. Despite their remarkable capabilities, Airmen don't feel like they can make recommendations because no one will listen. Gen. Welsh also mentioned some Airmen are telling him they're bored due to the impact of budget cuts to mission capabilities. In response to Airmen being bored, he stated, "That's a little scary." I concur with his assessment because boredom has a way of leading to negativity. If you're bored in performing your duties as a Warrior of the North, I encourage you to ask yourself what actions you can take to change your disposition and make things better for others.
There are plenty of Mission Support Group Warriors who are making a difference. I'd like to recognize Senior Master Sgt. Lisa Perez, Tech. Sgt. Kevin Reiter, Senior Airman Jazmine Mayo, Airman 1st Class Cory Churchill and Airman 1st Class Tralisha Russell for "creating the change they wanted to see to improve service to others." Sergeant Perez, Airman Mayo and Airman Churchill developed The Tunnel of Oppression, an interactive event that highlights contemporary issues of oppression. Participants are guided through a series of scenes and rooms, intended to educate and challenge them to think more deeply about issues of oppression. Topics include drug/alcohol abuse, domestic violence, depression and sexual orientation. With the understanding that education is the foundation of our airpower advantage, Sergeant Reiter also recognized an opportunity and took action. He established the Airman Development Scholarship to provide financial support to staff sergeants and below as a way to offset the cost of books, while pursuing a Community College of the Air Force degree. Lastly, Airman Tralisha Russell, a member of the Dorm Council, partnered with first sergeants to create an environment for residents that encourages pride in ownership and enhances the sense of community through competitive sporting events, community outings and various morale and welfare activities.
The future of the Air Force starts with you. Every Airman matters, and delivering superior airpower requires all of us to understand our duty, be committed to excellence and draw strength from our unity. As I often tell members of the Mission Support Group, keeping our edge requires us to: do more than belong--participate; do more than care--help; and do more than believe--train. Every Airman, every day, can make a difference--BE THE 1!