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October Commander's Corner

Portrait of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Luther Cross, the commander of the 316th Fighter Squadron Active Association, assigned to McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Sept. 19, 2016. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

Portrait of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Luther Cross, the commander of the 316th Fighter Squadron Active Association, assigned to McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Sept. 19, 2016. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- Swamp Fox! Thank you for continuing to be a gracious host to our Active Association. This assignment is phenomenal, and it has given me a unique opportunity to see other ways of doing business and learn from your many strengths. Those strengths are driven by "Thinking Airmen" that always seek to complete the mission, help others do their best, and improve the organization.

Knowing your unit's mission is always the primary concern. Fighter Pilot Wingmen are expected to follow their Flight Lead precisely, but they are also expected to be ready to lead at any moment. You must know the objectives, the route your flight will take, the threats you will face, and how to recognize and kill your target. Only a Thinking Airman can truly be ready to lead.  The same is true for everyone in the wing, regardless of your specialty or rank. Everyone plays a unique role and has specific guidance to follow. Technical Orders must be followed exactly every time. Air Force Instructions must also be followed with care, but there are always interpretations and waivers to consider. As you interpret instructions, carefully consider the affects you will have on mission execution and your fellow Airmen. You will not always be able to "Get to yes," but you should always seek mission success and treat other Airmen with dignity. A tedious waiver will often give an Airman the opportunity they need to continue to serve. Airmen are our most important resource. We should treat them as such and go out of our way to retain quality Airmen and their families! 

Helping others do their best includes preparing those around you. Be the example by upholding standards, giving your best effort, and providing clear feedback. First, holding fellow Airmen to a high standard is important. When you set the bar high, Airmen will exceed your expectations the vast majority of the time. Formal discipline is often seen as a four-letter word, but it is fair to those that consistently excel and beneficial in the long run. Formal paperwork is shredded within a few years. Festering issues can linger much longer. Second, effort is easy to recognize and encourage. Reward those that take the tough and tedious jobs, and use mistakes as opportunities to instruct rather than crush. Finally, be consistent, specific and deliberate with the feedback you provide. Everyone needs to improve in certain areas, but they may not recognize it.

Thinking Airmen are also the catalyst to positive change, but it can be difficult. As leaders, we must foster an environment where the youngest Airman can offer innovative new ideas. Don't be the experienced supervisor that is resistant to change. If you're the young Airman, consider your words carefully. There is a wide gulf between complaining and offering constructive feedback.  My former boss preferred "reasoned dissent." If you could articulate a better process, he was attentive and open-minded. Think your suggestions through, and make us better.

We share a proud lineage of Thinking Airmen that have been the best at their craft, trained those around them and made our Air Force better. If we continue to improve and care for each other, we will always be ready to dominate the next fight. Thank you for all you and your family do for our great nation. It is an honor to serve with you and for you. Semper Primus!