Core Groups: Strengthening bonds and developing warriors

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- What does a wingman look like? Many of our Airmen joined because they wanted to serve something bigger themselves — their fellow warriors and their nation. Given the stressors and the nature of our jobs, it is easy to lose sight of that, but it is also important to realize that being an Airman is much more than a job – it is a way of life with an ethos, a purpose and an identity that has meaning for all of us. Core Groups aims to reconnect Airmen with the warrior culture they joined, but more importantly, the program also seeks to connect Airmen with Airmen.

Calling Core Groups a program is a little misleading. These small groups are more of a means for Airmen to give their take on issues and challenges. Rather than being told what “integrity” is, Airmen will be given an opportunity to discuss what they believe it to be and examples of how they have seen it carried out throughout their lives. We are also keeping the groups small, (no more than 10 Airmen per group) so that all of our Airmen have a chance to speak.

Bonds are formed at the small group level. This should not be a secret to any warrior or any student of human history. Military cultures of the world have always leveraged small groups to not only win their nation’s wars, but also to foster a sense of community. This inevitably leads to the formation of traditions, purpose and overall identity.  

That is why Core Groups is important. It focuses on the relationship we should have with one another as Airmen and warriors. What does that relationship look like? Core Groups aims to answer that question by bringing Airmen together in small groups to discuss their take on leadership and integrity while also giving them opportunity to share personal stories. Rather than dictate to our Airmen what these values mean in a strict sense, they will have a chance to voice what they believe these values mean and how their lives have been affected by them.

Not only does Core Groups seek to foster bonds between Airmen and educating them on our warrior culture, it also plays a key role in professional development. For far too long we have relied on our entry-level training and career schools to teach a handful of selectees about professional development. This is a right for all of our Airmen, and Core Groups will now play a role in developing all of our Strikers. Every Airmen has the right to learn how to become a better warrior.

For this reason, Airmen can drive each Core Group session in a direction of their choosing. Yes, these sessions have lesson plans that include a topic, typically on a core value or leadership trait, and an adjoining history lesson, but these are just tools meant to anchor the discussion. It is more important that our Airmen use these opportunities to get to know one another. This is why Core Groups are designed to be read on the way to the missile facility, under the wing of one of our strategic bombers, or somewhere off base. This is a chance for our Airmen, even our junior Airmen, to not only share their stories, but shape the dialogue of our warrior culture. 

The plan: for small groups of Airmen (again, no more than 10) to meet together, talk about what is important to them and learn what it means to be a warrior, not only for your nation, but for each other.