AIRMEN CARE ... Do you?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Dean Doering
  • 4th Medical Support Squadron commander
My squadron command job will be wrapping up this summer after two and a half years of incredibly busy, yet exceptionally rewarding service, first as commander of the 509th Medical Support Squadron and currently as commander of the 4th Medical Support Squadron. Before I move on to Air Staff, I feel compelled to share some poignant leadership experiences and recommendations, which I hope will inspire and embolden readers of this article to display a higher level of professionalism and passion for our profession of arms. 

Being a 509'er commander at Whiteman Air Force Base was exciting to me, then I came to the 4th Fighter Wing. We are "Fourth but First" for a reason and it didn't take long for me to see why. We have a great team here at Seymour Johnson AFB. Whether active duty or Reservist, military or civilian, enlisted or officer, our diversity and individual talents synergize to accomplish, better than anyone else, whatever mission we are given - in-garrison or deployed around the world! 

Why do we succeed? What is it that makes a good team? In my opinion the answer is twofold: leadership and Airmen who care. Leadership can get us to a certain point; however, without caring Airmen we can't fully succeed or reach the highest levels of achievement. I created the acronym AIRMEN CARE to convey some attributes and behaviors I believe we can all possess, personalize and implement in order to get the most out of ourselves and the people we work with: 

A - Attitude. Good or bad, attitude is contagious. It can help you swim or make you sink as an organization. Attitude is everything, so keep it positive and help turn around those giving off negative vibes. 

I - Intellect. Know your job better than anyone else and broaden your horizons through reading. Successful people know how to balance their jobs with family, community and spiritual life. 

R - Respect. We voluntarily serve to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Our way of life depends on our actions every day. Respect your senior leadership and what they are trying to accomplish, respect one another, and respect the flag and what it represents...don't beat feet from retreat! Feel proud to pause for the 75 seconds it takes to play the National Anthem and offer a salute in recognition of those that paid the ultimate price for our freedom. 

M - Morale. Do everything you can to enhance quality of life. Let commanders know what you need. Even the most austere locations on the planet can be tolerable if we communicate our needs and figure out how to boost morale. Commanders must be visible and spend quality time in each duty section in order to check the pulse of their units. The saying, "work hard and play hard" can be misinterpreted. The fact is most people will work harder if able to have some time to unwind and have some fun. However, we all must keep it safe, working or playing, and know when to say, "Knock it off." 

E - Expectations. Communicating expectations is vital and listening is key. Feedback is the traditional method used for letting people know what you expect and should go up and down the chain as well as laterally. Everyone in the unit must know his or her commander's expectations and likewise, the commander must know the expectations of his or her people. We must set high standards for ourselves and those we lead. If you aren't correcting slipshod oral or written communications, then you aren't doing your job. If you walk past a problem and have the ability to correct it immediately but don't, everyone will know (e.g., not correcting dress and appearance infractions or not picking up trash blowing around outside your building). Correcting poor performance is not just a commander's responsibility. Keep in mind...what you don't do is just as important, if not more important, than what you do end up doing. Set the example. Be fit physically and mentally. 

N - Nurture. We must train, equip and develop our Airmen to the best of our abilities. Foster self-improvement and give or take advantage of opportunities when they come your way. If I didn't have supportive supervisors and mentors when I was a young Airman, then I wouldn't have attained very many of my goals. I'll admit, I never dreamed as a "slick-sleever" back in 1985 that I would someday be a lieutenant colonel who is getting ready to go work with our nation's senior leadership in Washington, D.C. I've been blessed, and I take every opportunity to do whatever I can to "pay it forward," in order to give others a chance to succeed. 

Finally, there is nothing wimpy about being magnanimous. Giving someone the opportunity to rectify a mistake and forgiving him/her goes a long way. It is appreciated and helps foster trust and respect. Of course, tough love may be required for frequent or heinous mistakes. Crimes are a different matter and must be dealt with swiftly and justly. 

C - Core Values. Integrity - Service - Excellence: Live our core values every day and everything else will be just fine. Integrity is first for a reason. It is non-negotiable! 

A - Accountability. Hold yourself and people around you accountable, and accept responsibility. Be firm but fair. Turn failures during training into successes, since it fosters innovation, initiative and risk taking. 

R - Recognition. Take the time to recognize those that deserve it. Recognition can be verbal or written, formal or informal. It goes a long way and pays great dividends. Conversely, not recognizing someone who deserves it, or saying, "I didn't have time..." is an excuse and detrimental to unit morale. 

E - Enthusiasm. Be enthusiastic and ensure everyone knows how relevant and important he or she is to our Air Force family. An upbeat, highly energetic person will get extraordinary results even when the going gets tough. It is amazing what a smile can do on a gloomy day. 

Let me end with this simple question: AIRMEN CARE, do you?