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That is how one learns we are a team

  • Published
  • By Col. Meredith A. Goodwin, commander
  • 349th Medical Group

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- When I started at the 349th Air Mobility Wing as a non-prior service Airman more than 15 years ago, I really had no idea what being in the Reserves was all about. When I showed up on my very first day at the hospital auditorium as a newly-minted major, a master sergeant pulled me aside and helped me reorganize my blues – I had put everything on the jacket backwards! Yes, I was just a touch nervous. I soon discovered that those in my squadron were always willing to help me, no matter what our rank. I just had to ask.  I asked a lot of everyone all the time.

But that is how one learns. We are a team.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to serve with and under many individuals. We are all leaders and we each bring our own personality to what we do in the Air Force. Leaders are not always liked and I have served under a few who provided examples of leadership that I did not adopt. The leaders with whom I have served, and who I respect the most, are those who get out and find out about those in their command. Not just those they serve under, but also with those who serve under them.

Good decisions for a group of people are not possible without really knowing your command – the people you lead. A flight, a section, a squadron or a group – it’s all the same. Respect at any level is earned by taking care of your people. Find out about them, learn who they are and what questions they have and find out what you can do to make their jobs easier and better.

One of my favorite things to do as a commander is to sit down with either junior enlisted, senior enlisted, company grade officers or field grade officers as a group and find out what was really bugging them. I provide coffee and a large table that I specifically do not sit at the head of, and the first sergeant and I ask them how things are going and what we can do to help.

Naturally, it takes a few sessions with each group for them to trust that I will take their concerns to heart and really try to address them. I write down each concern then ask the group to brainstorm solutions. I do my best to keep an open mind (some of the ideas were definitely solutions I would never have come up with myself) and take each suggestion that was workable as far along as I can. Then I report back to them, which is key. Closing the loop lets them know what happened and that I took their suggestions seriously.   

We take the fight wherever the commander in chief sends us, we do the job extraordinarily well and we bring our Airmen home. That is why each of us volunteered to serve – our country and each other. Thank you for all that you do!