ABCs drive success

  • Published
  • By Col. Leslie Claravall
  • 4th Medical Group commander
Flashback 20 years ago -- MTV was as awesome back then as iPods are today; aerobics were the rage for fitness compared to today's cross-training sessions; and militarily speaking, nuclear deterrence during the Cold War was the order of the day as opposed to fighting the current overseas contingency operations.

Back in the late 1980s, I was a university student and an AFROTC cadet from "Det 675." From what I recall, times seemed simpler and moved much "slower"... no Internet, e-mails, cell phones or instant text messaging to speak of! Can you imagine what my classroom was like with no colorful PowerPoint presentations?

Now, fast forward to 2010. How does this "Generation X-er" lead in today's fast-paced world in the most high-tech Air Force on this planet?

As a commander for the 374th Medical Operations Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, back in 2005, I had put together all I've learned, read and observed on leadership over the years and developed a personal command philosophy. It had to be simple so I could remember it! I called it my "ABCs to success." Now, five years later, I've returned to command - only this time, it's at the group level. After just more than a month on the job, I find myself using those same ABCs to lead and take care of the medics at the 4th Medical Group.

By design, the basic foundation of success begins with "A" for Airmen. Every Airman is key to the overall success of the mission as long as they embrace the Air Force core values and have an understanding of the mission. The bottom-line mission in the military is to "win" as there is no second place in war. An Airman should never underestimate the role he or she plays. To begin as a leader, put the Airmen first.

"B" is for brains and brawn and is accomplished via training for the mind, body and soul. Training for the mind includes education and training such as career development courses, professional military education, on-the-job training, advanced degrees, etc. Training for the body includes physical training so that one is "fit to fight." The "soul" of the military is readiness ... the reason why we're here. Thus, training for the soul is readiness training to include wing exercises, small arms training, safety, etc. As a leader, pay attention to training! It's how we develop our Airmen.

"C" is for camaraderie via teamwork. Team members include people you work with, families, church, community - all play a part in the success of the mission. The prerequisites of good teamwork are individual training mentioned previously, unit (team) training depends on it; "knowing" one's team members and what they do is crucial as is paying attention to the "hand-offs" between members, flights, squadrons, services, etc. From my perspective, "service before self" implies team focus as opposed to individual ulterior motives. To be a good leader, be a good coach for the team. Mentor and develop the next generation of leaders. What goes around, comes around!

"D" is for drive. Morale is dependent on training and teamwork. So it would behoove you as a leader to make training and teamwork a priority. Unit pride has to come from within the Airmen; it cannot be imposed on them. Thus, the greater the sense of accomplishment on the Airmen's part, the higher the morale. Recognition, awards and opportunities to share success with others via team or unit functions further "drive" morale.

Like Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, the "self-actualization" of mission success is dependent on teamwork, which is dependent on good training, which, in turn, is dependent on Airmen who embrace the core values. In sum: Airmen with brains, brawn and camaraderie drive success.

To those who find themselves in a leadership fog, having a leadership formula or personal command philosophy can help clear the air and provide you with a clearer view of the target.

With that said, I'm humbled with the opportunity for command once again and look forward to working with the dedicated professionals of the 4th MDG who fuel a healthy, fit and fighting force to achieve the 4th Fighter Wing's mission of "Airpower on target, on time for America."