Winter leadership required

  • Published
  • By Col. Jeff Flewelling
  • 21st Space Wing vice commander
"THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." With those words in 1776, Thomas Paine addressed a nation that had recently declared independence. The leadership he highlighted is what brought the Continental Army through the darkest of days.

Today we face uncertain funding profiles, possible sequestration actions and real and personal monetary impacts to our Air Force family. As I wrote in my December 2011 commentary, "...shrinking capital and manpower will force Airmen to reprioritize and find new ways to accomplish the mission." I challenged Airmen to lead the way through tumultuous times, and I still hold to that beacon. As we navigate the dynamic and constrained FY 13 budget, more than ever we must rely on the "winter soldiers," the Airmen who provide leadership and commitment to the mission in the toughest of times.

I call on the Knights of the 21st Space Wing to remember three important items as we continue to face budget uncertainty. First, remember we operate a 24/7 mission and we support multiple combatant commands around the globe every day. Second, remember that innovation is one of our 21st Space Wing guiding tenants and self-help/reliance and creativity can provide the flexibility we need to execute in any environment. Finally, remember that it is a privilege to serve.

The 21st is deployed around the world conducting operations 24/7. During the countless budget drills it is important to remind ourselves that we are a global wing and we routinely execute no-fail missions. Our missile warning and space control forces provide critical capability for the defense of the United States, capability we truly can't do without. I think it's also important to remind ourselves our people execute these missions in harsh environments. Over the years this has led to an engrained expeditionary mindset. We are mission first...period. We are expeditionary by nature and we will get the job done. We need to harness and rely on that resourcefulness.

Paine coined the term "winter soldier" in his first 'Crisis Paper' pamphlet, published in a bitter and cold December of 1776. I believe one of the most valuable traits a winter soldier possesses is self-reliance. We have been well supplied in years past, however those "stress-free" budget years can't be the only baseline we are capable of operating in. The Knights of the 21st need to continue to explore and promote innovation at every turn in order to enhance our self-reliance.

Our recent Wing Gold Knight winner from January is a perfect example of what becoming self-reliant through innovation looks like. Knights from the 721st Civil Engineer Squadron at Cheyenne Mountain AFS took it upon themselves to remedy a problem they'd had for many months. Their complicated underground compressed air system was failing over time. The team came together and decided they would rebuild the compressor themselves - within normal duty hours and without additional support. Not only did they fix the compressor system, they improved it. They added a low-volume compressor and refurbished the high-volume compressor system. With the new set-up, they decreased the usage rate on the high-volume compressor system, saving power by utilizing the new smaller compressor for all low-volume requirements (e.g. blowing up a flat tire). This innovative self-help project repaired the system, decreased probability of a repeat failure and saved the Air Force thousands of dollars.

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to attend the Colorado Springs area chief's recognition ceremony. The guest speaker, Chief Master Sgt. Linus Jordan, Air Force Space Command command chief, reminded us how it is still a privilege and not an entitlement to wear the uniform and serve in this great Air Force. I would add that personally, it is also a privilege to be a part of this great wing. We have the best mission set and we are always operating somewhere on the globe (as we like to say, the sun never sets on 21st Space Wing). We have the opportunity to serve our country both in good and bad times, and when the way is tough we need those who are willing and capable of enduring.

Across this wing I see examples of what makes this wing the best in the Air Force - our steadfast devotion to mission underpinned by leadership, discipline and innovation. Thanks all for your day-to-day service. Continue to look out for your wingman and provide that winter soldier leadership.