November Commander's Corner
By Lt. Col. Akshai Gandhi, 157th Fighter Squadron
/ Published October 29, 2015
MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE -- Let me start by thanking all Swamp Foxes for their dedicated service to our great state and nation--especially in light of the recent flooding. The out-pouring of support, not to mention the blood, sweat and tears, to help our fellow South Carolinians in need was simply astounding. I'm fairly confident that our personnel were either at work supporting the relief and real-world missions or out in the community making a difference. That alone should make you proud to be a Swamp Fox, but's it's really only the most recent reason.
Over the past 14 years, I've had the honor of serving beside you, and we've been awful busy. Over the past two plus years, I have had the privilege of leading the aviation package on deployment nine times and am constantly in awe of how well everyone performs--both the folks on deployment and our Swamp Fox comrades supporting our efforts from home station. Consistently moving 20-year-old warplanes across the planet is no small feat, but remarkably you all make it look easy.
Part of why we continuously excel is our ability to effectively communicate up, down and across the chain of command. It's is no easy task. Communication is hard enough when simply talking to somebody, but in today's electronic age with e-mail, text, social media, etc., it gets eminently more complicated. How do you communicate? How do you pass information? Is it the same?
I submit the most effective way to communicate is through good old fashioned face-to-face dialog. With all parties actively engaged in the discussion, you have a greater chance of making sure the message is accurately received. When in person, you also get the added benefit of seeing body language or hearing inflection in someone's voice. When you can't meet in person, a phone call (or VTC, Skype, etc.) may be almost as good. When these options are not available, you're left with written means; electronic or heaven forbid- paper!
Let's talk about e-mail and text messages. They are both incredible tools for passing information, but must be used with caution when trying to communicate. How many times have you been in a back-and-forth text "conversation" that could have been resolved with a 16 second phone call? I am not implying you cannot communicate by written or electronic means; sometimes we have no other option. You must, however, realize there are some limitations and you will have to work harder to be effective and ensuring your message is received accurately requires particular effort.
Social media is a fantastic (and often very effective) way to reach out to a large group of people. However, in our line of work, it can also put our mission and people at grave risk if not very carefully considered. Is it really something people need to know? How could our enemies use this information against us or our families? Could somebody combine what you post with other readily available information to compromise our security or ability to execute the mission? Try Googling your name to see what comes up; you might be shocked how much is out there!
Electronic communications make responding very easy, and as a result many responses are not very effective. When you have to look somebody in the eye and formulate a response it takes considerably more effort than to blather something out in an e-mail, text or post (and then simply hit 'enter'). In fact, hitting enter (or send) should be a very deliberate act. Did you review what you just wrote and consider if it is going to effectively communicate the intended message? Does it consider the context of the situation or frame of mind of the recipient(s)?
As a supervisor, it is your responsibility to ensure your message is effectively communicated and received. I find clear and concise is the most effective. Fluff, sarcasm, etc. tend to dilute, confuse the issue and wastes peoples' time. A good rule of thumb is don't phrase anything you would be concerned about being pasted on the front page of a newspaper. As a subordinate (or receiver of a message), you need to make sure you understand the task at hand. If you are unsure, then ask for clarification. You're not asking "why," you're making sure you understand the "what."
The holidays are upon us and I wish you and your families the very best. Please take some well-deserved time off to recharge your batteries, but also keep an eye out for any Swamp Fox in need. Semper Primus and Cavete Vulpis!