It's not just the destination, it's also the journey

  • Published
  • By Col. Jeff Pickard
  • 507th Maintenance Group Ccmmander
The 507th Air Refueling Wing has been on a journey since the unit stood up in 1944 as a Fighter Group. Through the years, each new mission, aircraft, and person has added to the whole. From 16 enemy aircraft kills in WWII to being awarded full designation as a "Wing" in 1961, our history is rich in accomplishments. In 2011, "Team Tinker" started on another journey as we geared up for Nuclear and Conventional Operational Readiness Inspections with the desired destination to demonstrate the readiness of our team; and you did, scoring an "Excellent" for both. With all this history behind us, we need to be ready for the next challenge, the next destination.

As a wing, I believe we need to remain focused on our near term destinations, while ensuring we position ourselves to be ready for the next history making journey. We should continue to focus on the short term, while not losing sight on longer term readiness. All of us need to be great leaders AND great followers. Will you be ready to assume more responsibility, more leadership, and more authority....when that time comes? The time is now.

When I was in basic training back in 1980, my training squadron had a motto "Lead, Follow or get out of the way!" Over the years, that motto stayed with me and I believe it inspired me to go further than I thought I could; it became part of me as a person, follower and leader. I believe that everyone in the 507th has found themselves in every one of these roles...leading, following or just getting out of the way, often wearing multiple hats in those roles.

Our wing needs us to step up and take leadership roles at every level; take followership roles at every level; and for those of us who find ourselves getting out of the way, we need to step up into both leader and follower roles. That is the only way we will be ready to showcase our talents during the next history making destination...when our time comes. Here are some thoughts I believe can help you, should you choose to use them, and it doesn't matter where you are in the chain:

Recruit - We all need to be recruiters, tell our story and help bring new folks onto our team. Once you know there is a new person joining our team, we need great sponsor's assigned to them (there's no second chance to make a good first impression); then we need to ensure the new members have all the uniforms they need to be successful and make them feel part of the team.

When sitting down with them for the first time, let them know what your expectations are for the next six months (give them a plan, let them know what to expect), then get them in the work area, doing their job (they joined to work airplanes, take blood pressure, repair runways, etc...not to die by PowerPoint). Then get back with them at the end of every unit training assembly for the first six months to see how they are doing, see what they learned, find out if they get paid on them understand how important they are to our future.

Retain - Once they are firmly in the unit, with our shared view of the future ingrained into their thinking, we need to work on retaining our folks. As a leader, get to know your folks, find out about their families and lives when they are not on duty with us. If we don't take the time to understand them and their personal situations, they won't be with us long term. Make sure you train them to take your position, when you are gone...they need to be just as highly skilled as you on the job and need leadership training along the way as well.

Take the time to recognize them publicly. When deserved, make sure you write a strong decoration package; nothing will inspire your folks more than when they are publicly recognized for their service and sacrifice. Help guide them, ensuring they have opportunities for PME, leadership development, and other attributes that will help them be ready for increased responsibility/promotion, when the time comes.

If you focus on the near term and the long term, when the time comes....that "next challenge" will come and go faster than you thought and we will find ourselves embarking on a new journey towards yet another destination. So focus on the journey by ensuring you and those around you are ready for every new history making destination, you'll be surprised at how much you have grown personally and professionally. Oh yeah, and have fun along the way too!

Will you be ready to assume more responsibility, more leadership, and more authority...when that time comes? That time is now.