Lessons of command

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- As I near the end of my two years as commander of the 45th Launch Support Squadron, I take more and more time to reflect on the experience. I underestimated just how much I would learn while in the seat. In fact, it's possible I've learned more in the past two years than I have over the other 16 years of my career. While there is no way I can capture all of the takeaways in this article, here are a few "big rocks" that stand out to me as important lessons of command.

1. "Fair" Does Not Equal "Same". I tried hard during my tenure to be consistent when it came to discipline and others areas of judgment. However, it became apparent fairly quickly that consistency didn't translate into equality. Every Airman indeed had a story, each with unique circumstances--rarely could I apply the same course of action to every similar situation. Therefore, I learned to treat everyone fairly--just not necessarily the same. You can't discipline by checklist--that's not commanding. The consistency is in the decision-making process, not the decisions themselves.

2. What's Your Message? I also found out the importance of understanding the ramifications of the decisions I made. My choices sometimes had second and third order effects that I did not anticipate. I learned to consider how the squadron would interpret certain decisions and their resulting meanings. Sometimes the right call for an individual was the wrong call for maintaining good order and discipline in the unit. Minding your message goes a long way in eliminating confusion and maintaining transparency to your people--two crucial factors in preserving your credibility.

3. The Golden Rule. This is more a validation of previous mentorship than a new lesson learned. But it is absolutely the bottom line of command: Command is about people. Take care of your people and they will take care of you (i.e., the mission). Make sure they have the resources they need to get the job done and back them up in every way. Everything else will fall into place. If you get only one thing right as a commander, make sure this is the one--it's the crux of mission success.

Squadron command has been the most exhausting and exhilarating experience of my professional life. The trick is to understand that you don't know everything, to learn from your mistakes (I've made plenty), and to take care of your people. Finally, I want to thank the Night Gators--the men and women of the 45th LCSS, the Air Force's #1 spacelift squadron! It has been an honor and privilege serving you as your commander.