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Listen then speak, follow and then lead

  • Published
  • By Colonel Gregory Champagne
  • 131st Bomb Wing Commander
In the military we have a culture of supporting our leaders; all is well when we know our leaders have our backs. From our most senior leaders to our unit leaders, we put our trust in them. Leaders inspire and motivate us to do our best. During the course of our careers, we have admired someone who portrayed a quality of leadership that we would follow. One thing is clear: a leader influences the direction of a unit.

Four months ago when I became the 131st Bomb Wing Commander, I set four strategic goals for the wing over the next few years. These goals included keeping a strong commitment to total force integration with the 509th Bomb Wing, becoming experts in the B-2 mission, establishing an operating location in St. Louis, and having the 131st Bomb Wing represented through higher headquarters, state, and federal levels to tell the story of the Missouri Air National Guard.

With our move from Lambert Field to Whiteman, the 131st has gone through a leadership challenge in the last three years culminating with the majority of our leadership new to their positions. This provides the unique capability to shift the direction of our wing. We will not dwell in the past, but focus on now, and the future.

The now: we, the 131st, fly and support the B-2 mission at Whiteman AFB. Whiteman is the home of the 131st; we are part of Team Whiteman.

The future: change. Future budget cuts will create change and I have been working with our senior 131st leadership to lead turn these reductions to ensure that our "missions" are funded. There will be changes in the way we do business; precedence will not dictate how future decisions are made. I will need your help as we go down this road while serving the people of this state and nation. Not only the 131st, but the U.S. military as a whole is in a flux of change which demands ever greater leadership.

Leadership is not just a commander's or chief's role, but a role that all officers and NCOs must assume because of the responsibility these positions demand. From our first day in the military, leadership and the role it plays in the organization is discussed. The Airman's Creed, "...I am an American Airman, Wingman, Leader, Warrior," the NCO Creed, "...and lead the way with the highest level of competence," and the Chief's Creed, which reflects the very core aspects of leadership, "character...honesty...stand(ing) for the truth," all reflect leadership.

In my recent commanders calls I gave guidance to my Officers, Chiefs and NCOs: "I empower you to make decisions, I support you in these decisions, and I hold you accountable for your decisions"... and they would not have it any other way.

As we focus on today's mission I ask our current leaders to look at the future. Who are the next leaders and what are you doing to mentor them? We have a great junior officer and enlisted force that want to lead and look for their leaders to mentor them.

Future leaders - Learn from both good and bad leadership examples; ensure you will not make the same mistakes when you are in a leadership position. When opportunities present themselves grab onto them and lead.

Leadership comes from hard work and support from your airmen. Most want to take direction from leaders, most want to be here and be part of the team. Treat airman as you would want to be treated, ask airmen their opinion, and always have time to visit airmen. Be ready to accept criticism, never accept the phrase, "that's the way it has always been." Don't be afraid to change something, always be professional, and never think you are above anyone. Self serving decisions will always be noticed. Don't leave until your people leave, do as you say, be predictable. Set the example, keep people informed, and take responsibility for your actions. In short, always have your Airman's back.