Senior Statesman Panel focuses on leadership

  • Published
  • By Kimberly Woodruff
  • Tinker Public Affairs
Leadership in war and peacetime was the focus of a Feb. 12 Senior Statesman Leadership Panel, sponsored by the Logistics Officers Association and Air Force Association.

The panel consisted of Col. Jay Bickley, 552nd Air Control Wing commander; retired Col. Chuck DeBellevue, Vietnam War ace; Col. Linda Hurry, deputy commander for Maintenance with the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex; and Col. John Kubinec, Air Force Sustainment Center vice commander. Retired Brig. Gen. Ben Robinson, former 552nd ACW commander, was the moderator.

Panel members discussed topics from deployment drawdowns to the military budget.
"Cost effective readiness is key as we position and set ourselves up for success as we transition out of war," Colonel Kubinec said.

They all agreed that military leaders need to make sure the troops have equipment and the support they need, as well as the training to get the job done.

"People are still motivated and we need to make sure they believe what we're doing is important and they are making a difference and that they are appreciated," Colonel Bickley said.

Colonel Hurry said the key is to build strong networks and trust, being there for one another and streamlining processes. "The No. 1 thing we need to do is listen," she said. "Create an environment where our people are empowered and let them try things. This is how we do more with is a team effort."

Colonel DeBellevue challenged attendees to "lead from the front."

"Empower your people," he said. "Tell them what you want done and get out of the way. You know what they can do and you push them."

Colonel Kubinec spoke of the current high operations tempo and the toll it has taken on Airmen and their families. He urged everyone to be sure to reach out to the families because deployments are impacting them.

Panel members said personnel costs are the biggest chunk of the budget, so it is an obvious area to focus on. Under current Air Force force reduction measures, 25,000 military will be leaving either voluntarily or non-voluntarily by January 2015.

"The same characteristics that we have in the military are the same characteristics companies are looking for in their employees: discipline, focus, leadership and teamwork," said Colonel Hurry.

She urged leaders to help their Airmen who may be affected by these cuts to write resumes and said the best way to support them is to give them honest and realistic feedback.

"What we owe our people is brutal honesty," Colonel Bickley said. He said the Airmen want and deserve feedback and leaders owe them the truth. "It may be tough to give that bottom third of our Airmen feedback," he said, "but if we don't, they won't be prepared. So talk with the Airmen."

The panel agreed that the Air Force is a team sport and it takes everyone to make the mission happen.

"Do your best job. Don't worry where you work--just do your best job," said Colonel Hurry.

Colonel DeBellevue said everyone plays an important role in the Air Force's success, though some jobs seem "better" than others. "It is important to remember at some point we are all the most important part of the team," he said.