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December Commander's Corner

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Calvin Elam, the South Carolina National Guard's Assistant Adjutant General for Air, poses for his official portrait Jan. 25, 2013. 
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Calvin Elam, the South Carolina National Guard's Assistant Adjutant General for Air, poses for his official portrait Jan. 25, 2013. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, South Carolina -- As I rapidly approach the end of my military career, I want to take this opportunity to thank those of you that I have had the pleasure of working with over the past 27 years in the South Carolina Air National Guard. I joined the military in 1980 to get money to pay for college and 33 years later I find myself still hanging around. As I reflected on the reasons for such longevity, I reasoned like many of you that at some point along the way I began to believe in something bigger than myself. I saw an opportunity to do something good for my state and nation; an opportunity to make a difference. When you join an organization like the SCANG, an organization with a rich and colorful history but more importantly an organization with a culture of excellence and a penchant for winning, you become anxious for the opportunity to make your contribution. Any of the experts that study organizational behavior are quick to tell you that it's the culture of an organization that will dictate whether that organization will be successful or will ultimately fail.

Organizations that are deeply rooted with a winning culture enjoy an uncanny way of maintaining that culture because people in the organization tend to police themselves. McEntire is known throughout the United States Air Force for its culture of excellence and it is this culture of excellence that will need to remain at the forefront of all we do in our quest for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Someone once said that "success is not accidental" and I wholeheartedly agree. To be successful at anything you have to be willing to work at it. In my opinion, the SCANG has been largely successful for a couple of reasons. For one, no one in a position of leadership wants to "pierce the corporate veil of success" and be singled out as a failure. Secondly, I believe the overarching reason for its success is organizational pride - the view is always better from the top attitude. Organizational pride is tough to compete against.

Reflecting on my role as a commander, whether it was group or squadron, I clearly recall one of my primary focuses being to make sure my organization either matched or exceeded inspection results for ORIs, UCIs or MEIs because over time I began to see the 'big picture". With the looming budget crisis and less than idea fiscal environment that the Department of Defense now finds itself operating within, the SCANG, just like most other guard bases around the country, will have to continue proving how they add value to the new yet to be determined military construct. In my opinion, and this is strictly my opinion, the "big picture" now not only focuses on inspection results, although they remain important, but it also focuses on high reliability leaders and their ability to shift or change strategic focus as their environment changes. A high reliability leader is one who doesn't allow past successes to make them overlook small failures in operational processes. They are hesitant to paint small problems with a broad brush. Instead, they are willing to do a deeper dive to find the real source of a particular problem which ultimately leads to becoming a high reliability organization. With the challenges that lie ahead, the SCANG must continue its pursuit of becoming a high reliability organization, an organization that is operationally sound at every level, focused on doing what it takes to meet the unknowns of tomorrow. It must remain ready and relevant in order to secure the F-35 or other missions that leadership determines will add value to the organization.

I "sign off" with mixed emotions, as we all do, noting that the sand has finally run through my hourglass. It is my hope the future for the SCANG is as bright tomorrow as it was in the past. My best and highest regards always to the Swamp Foxes!

Semper Primus!