New commanders traditionally provide their squadrons a road map for organizational success. Most road maps incorporate mission statements and visions to help unit members understand the part they play in the larger team effort. Squadron objectives naturally nestle under group objectives to ensure a consistent approach to wing goals. This is a time-tested model that permits commanders to get everyone “rowing in the same direction.” It’s also a model that I, as a first-time commander, chose to ignore.
I chose this path for two primary reasons. First, I have the advantage of assuming command of a large operational squadron in a very small wing. I could argue - quite successfully, I suspect - that there are few differences between the 314th Airlift Wing’s mission and that of the Blue Barons of the 62nd Airlift Squadron. Quite simply, the 314th’s Little Rock contingent seeks to produce the world’s best C-130 combat airlifters to fly, fight and win. This mission statement is short and understandable; it needs no further clarification.
After realizing I didn’t need to clarify our mission to the members of my unit, I worked to understand what would help them achieve our goals. In the end, I chose to offer them a framework of questions that, when answered, would help them make the best choices possible as they strove to achieve our goals. The wing commander’s approach, understood across the wing as MSPIF — Mission, Standards, Partnerships, Innovation and Focus — provides a sound organizational approach to achieving the wing’s mission, but I thought I could further refine it to apply to everyday decisions made at the individual level. Speaking in terms of strategy, with the wing mission as the “ends” and unit members as the “means,” I thought I could help define the “ways.”
What follows is the framework I designed to help identify my best course of action when confronted with a decision that had no clear answer. In short, answering the questions below provides me a way to analyze which choice emphasizes those areas I’ve deemed key to personal and professional success: Increasing my abilities, seeking balance, making a quantifiable contribution and acting in a disciplined manner.
A – Ability. Am I increasing the breadth and depth of my intellectual and physical abilities? Am I the best instructor? How strong is my systems knowledge? Have I completed all educational opportunities appropriate for my rank? How can I seek out continuing educational opportunities? Is my physical fitness up to par?
B – Balance. Am I balancing my personal and professional lives? Am I a workaholic? Do I take time away for family, religion or hobbies? Do I use all my yearly leave?
C – Contribution. Am I contributing to the mission of graduating C-130 aircrew? Do my daily decisions contribute to the overall well being and success of the unit? Am I making a positive impact on those around me?
D – Discipline. Am I exercising discipline in my daily life? From flight discipline to self-discipline, am I applying myself in a manner that best uses my time and energy? Am I doing what’s right even though it may not be easy?
My approach is not perfect; many times, these concepts come into conflict with each other. For example, working out five hours a day might help me increase my physical abilities, but it will also adversely affect the balance in my life. This is just one tool to help analyze the options before me. If it helps me, then as a commander, I am obliged to share it with my unit’s members in the hopes they too can utilize it to achieve greatness.