Wing Commanders (and Civilian Equivalents),
Every one of you is dealing with the COVID-19 virus and the latest movement restrictions directed by Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Many of you will likely have an individual on your base or in your community who will test positive for the virus in the weeks ahead. In addition, you are dealing with daily closures of schools, child development centers and the challenge of staying connected with local community leaders, health agencies and state governance. Every day brings new challenges and opportunities and no situation presents a one-size-fits-all approach. You must tailor your response to fit your community situation. This is especially true in our Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve where Airmen and families are not co-located with a main operating base.
Commanding your wings when things are going well is a pleasure … but rarely remembered. Commanding during a crisis is an opportunity of a lifetime for you, your Chief and your Spouse (or volunteer lead spouse) to rise to the occasion and lead through the storm. This is a time that will be remembered by all. Having commanded during a number of similar crises, I wanted to offer a few thoughts for your consideration. They are not all inclusive nor are they a checklist. Take them as intended … advice from your CSAF, as you lead your wing with confidence, poise and purpose.
Success begins and ends with your Squadron Commander cadre. You and your Group Commanders must arm them with commander’s intent and information if your wing is to succeed. They must maintain 100% contact with the Airmen and families entrusted to your care. Information flow is key and you can only do so much. Arm them and support them and you will set the conditions to win. Try to do everything at your level and you will have someone fall through the cracks. Provide your commander’s intent and then step back as they execute.
Set proper expectations. Your Airmen and families will appreciate candor, not coddling. We don’t know when this will end. We don’t know a lot. Don’t make things up. Tell them what you do know and share what you don’t. Not your job to fix this. Your job is to lead.
This is when you make your money as a commander. The organization is going to ride on your calm, cool, collected and measured, while intense, approach to the crisis. If you are frazzled and all over the map, you are part of the problem. If you are the adult in the room that provides direction but empowers your subordinate leaders to take action, you win. Your wing will remember this time and how you responded for the remainder of your tour and beyond.
Your Vice can focus down and in, according to your stated commander’s intent. You need to be up and out with local community leaders, state leadership and health agencies. They are facing similar challenges. Where possible, you should build on the relationships already established to band together as one team. Our families live, work and play in the community. Now’s the time to work closely with Mayors, the Governor, and Inter-Agency teams to weather the storm. You are stronger together.
You must take care of yourself so you can take care of others. Doesn’t do us any good if you work 14 hour days and then catch the virus or go down for the count. Show the way by your strict adherence to the CDC ROE and demand your leadership team do the same. We’re in this for a few months, maybe longer … nobody knows. Get your personal OPTEMPO right so you can lead by example and have the physical and mental fitness to endure.
That’s enough for this APAN. We’ve established a website just for you with the most up-to-date information and shared lessons from your teammates. I highly encourage aggressive cross-talk across wings regardless of component or MAJCOM. Like you, I’ve never met a good idea I didn’t want to steal. Our CAT team has the stick here under the A3, Lt Gen Mark Kelly. Let’s keep the comm lines wide open.
This crisis affords you an unprecedented opportunity to show your wing what leadership in a crisis looks like. It is your command team (commander + senior NCO + volunteer lead spouse) taking charge and showing calm, steady, proactive leadership. It is you and your Group Commanders empowering your Squadron Commander cadre to take care of the Airmen and families entrusted to their care. We completely trust you and appreciate your leadership during this difficult time. COVID-19 is a worthy adversary. We must take it head on at every echelon of command.
Gen. David L Goldfein,
USAF Chief of Staff