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April Commander's Corner

Portrait of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ian Toogood, commander of the South Carolina Air National Guard's 169th Fighter Wing Aerospace Control Alert facility at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Mar. 18, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Ashleigh Pavelek)

Portrait of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ian Toogood, commander of the South Carolina Air National Guard's 169th Fighter Wing Aerospace Control Alert facility at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Mar. 18, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Ashleigh Pavelek)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C.- -- Effectively Maintaining Our Trajectory

One common theme I hear at every change of command, promotion or retirement ceremony at McEntire, is the pride in our wing's accomplishments and reputation around the guard and the combat air forces. I've heard dozens of reasons why McEntire is so successful, all of which have merit, but perhaps the most accurate is the fact that each of us is unwilling to disappoint the organization. There is something powerful about being a member of a successful group that motivates us to perform at a higher level. This phenomenon alone, while effective, is not enough to maintain the SCANG trajectory in the years to come. While we are fortunate to have a full bench of visionary wing and state leaders, it is well within each of our lanes to ensure we maintain a focus on what is important and do our own part, however seemingly insignificant.  It's on each of us to contribute to the effort that will maintain our greatness, and that of those who will follow in our path. Efficiency and effective prioritization are perhaps two of the best ways we can all achieve this at even the lowest level.

Theory and generalities are all well and good, and we get our fair share through various PME, CCAF and other required courses, but I prefer specifics. On a base with so many talented experts in every possible AFSC, I hesitate to give examples, but will do my best while sharing various tips I have received along the way. With less money, things and people today than the military many of us joined, it requires a focus on efficiency and prioritization. These two related concepts, if applied at every level, can make an enormous impact on how this fighter wing gets the job done.

Efficiency makes sense when you're short on resources-- that's a no-brainer. Of all the resources, most will agree that our people are the most valuable. It's you and I who compensate for the reduced budget, aging jets and unwavering ops tempo. But more specifically, our time and how we influence others' time is paramount. Most of us are decent at managing our own time, but seldom consider how we can invest it to save time for others. Something as simple as an e-mail, can bog people down more than necessary. Whether it's to a subordinate, supervisor or the whole shop, put the effort in, so the readers don't have to. If you need a decision from the boss, give him the facts, be concise and most importantly, provide a recommendation. Think two levels above your position when the boss has to coordinate with his/her boss. If you need 50 people to log some training, send it to those 50 people, not the entire wing. Provide the link, maybe even some "tips" for success to ensure everyone passes; quickly. It seems simple, but we all experience examples of inefficient thinking that effects large groups of people. Don't forget, phones haven't been replaced yet by computers, so stay proficient in using those too. Better yet, take a walk to someone's office and have a sit-down to work a more complicated issue instead of swapping one e-mail, 57 times. The benefits will go beyond just efficiency.

Efficiency ties in well with priority. When there isn't enough time to learn or do everything, the art of prioritization will help us greatly. It is a skill that I constantly refine, and when I need help, I ask for advice. The TAG wants us to be ready to do our job 24/7, so that's usually my first test.  Until I can do that, it is my #1 priority. After that, technique plays a larger role. In the F-16CM, we have multiple missions, weapons, systems and qualifications that each pilot must be proficient with. I wish I could master them all, but I can't. Early on I was told to identify a system, weapon or skill in the squadron that could be improved upon and become an expert on that topic; and as time allowed, add to the list. Most AFSCs on this base have the ability to become an expert in a specific function. Once you can do your job, determine where you can become an expert. Find something that can be improved or ask your supervisor for help, and become the best at whatever it is. Whether it's sending an OPREP to HHQ, understanding how AROWS works, rigging leading edge flaps or drawing blood... pick something and become the expert. With 1,411 SCANG warriors, we'd have most of our bases covered if we were all an expert at something.