It’s the journey that counts

Commentary by Col. Jeffrey Pickard, 349th Maintenance Group commander

Commentary by Col. Jeffrey Pickard, 349th Maintenance Group commander

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The 60th Air Mobility Wing and 349th AMW have been on a journey since they both stood up.  The 60th AMW can trace its history to July 1948, as it activated as the 60th Troop Carrier Wing.  The 349th can trace its history back to 1949 as the 349th Troop Carrier Wing, with previous history from 1943 as the 349th Operations Group under the 61st Troop Carrier Wing, Travis Air Force Base, California.

Eventually both wings came together in 1969, when the 349th Military Airlift Wing moved to Travis AFB and the partnership between both wings began.  Through the years, each new mission, aircraft and person has added to the whole.

With a mobility history reaching all the way back to World War II, to a full partnership between our two wings in 1969, our history is rich in accomplishments, too many to list here.  With all this history behind us though, we need to be ready for the next challenge, the next destination. 

As partner wings, 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. 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 at Travis 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. 

We need to step up and take leadership roles at every level, take followership roles at every level. 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 a great sponsor assigned to that Airman.  There’s no second chance to make a good first impression. Then we need to ensure the new members have everything they need to be successful and make them feel part of our 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. Get them in the work area, doing their job.  They joined to work airplanes, take blood pressure, repair runways, ect, not to die by PowerPoint.  Then get back with them at defined timeframes for the first six months to see how they are doing, see what they learned, find out what roadblocks they might have and help them overcome those roadblocks.  Help 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 education, 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. We will find ourselves embarking on a new journey toward 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, 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.