The following is the first draft of the introduction in my upcoming book on squadron command. As a result of the editing process, this draft will not be used, but I figured since I took the time to write the words, I’ll share them anyway. And if you’d rather listen to the words like an audiobook, check out the video at the very bottom of the post. Enjoy!
“I assume command.”
With those simple three words, I was off to the races.
From that moment, I was charged with caring and leading the men and women under my command because all of them have raised their hand to serve something bigger than themselves. At any given notice, I will be responsible to give orders and direction to carry out our assigned mission and protect our nation.
I delivered my speech that I worked hard at making sure I checked every box that was expected to be covered within the speech. I proceeded off stage to meet my wife and kids and we walked towards our next position. We tried to take some pictures to capture the moment, but saw the growing line of personnel waiting to meet and congratulate me and had to cut the moment short. One by one, I thanked each person for their kind words and attending the event. I tried my best to remember every name and face, but probably only retained 6.73% of the information. Once the line died down, I kissed my wife and kids and explained that Daddy has to start work now and I’ll see them later in the afternoon. I took a deep breath and tried to remember how to proceed to my new office. Conveniently, there is a parking space clearly labeled for the squadron commander. I guess this means everyone will know when I am and when I am not at work…not sure that’s a good thing.
I unlocked the door and sat down at my new desk. The silence of my new surroundings was deafening. Twenty-four hours ago I was just another field grade officer, and now I am a squadron commander. I am immediately responsible for the men and women under my charge to answer our nation’s call. On any given day, I can advance or halt someone’s career, send someone downrange and separate them from their family, and potentially have to hand a folded United States flag to a family member to honor the ultimate sacrifice. I thought to myself “I’ve finally made it…”, but then that thought was immediately followed by “…oh man, I made it. What do I do now? Should I talk to my boss, the Chief, or the Shirt first? What about my first Commander’s Call? When should that happen? Is that too soon or too late?”
The avalanche of thoughts continued until I was gripping my desk and I felt immobilized. I achieved a goal I set as soon as I was commissioned and became a second lieutenant in the Air Force. But there I was, struggling to know what next action to take next, when I was the position that offered me the greatest amount of maneuver and creativity. I looked around for a sign to help me, but nothing was there. This is what I imagined:
On my desk is a book that could serve as a guide from day one. A book that is written from practical experience and contains the knowledge you won’t receive from a traditional Professional Military Education source. A book that I could reference throughout my command tour to help you get through the hard times, keep me grounded so me ego doesn’t write checks your body can’t cash, and give me practical advice ahead of time so I can be proud of the hard work I know I will put in. A book that encourages me to be the leader I aspire to be and that others want to follow, not a cookie-cutter version of a leader that is only interested in self-advancement.
This is that book.
After completing two successful tours as a squadron commander, I realized that command isn’t about the glory of being in a position of authority, but rather it is the highest responsibility where you have direct influence on leading people who have volunteered to serve their country. Command is about personal endurance, mental stamina, and emotional awareness across an entire tour without any breaks. I also realized that these meeting these responsibilities doesn’t have to be accomplished alone. In fact, I spent a lot of time learning and shaping the strengths of my leadership along the way, of which I am grateful to everyone I had the privilege to serve with. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to be the leader I am today.
Throughout any command tour, you will encounter numerous decision points. After all, that’s your primary job as a commander: to make decisions. However, what are the answers to these questions: Will you do what is easy or what is right? Are you mentally prepared to live up to various expectations of your subordinates? Has your previous experiences provided enough practice to make sure you don’t mess this up? These answers aren’t obvious, but this book will help you discover what is right for you.
For those of us lucky enough to be selected for command, the modern military doesn’t need robotic leaders that follow formulaic guidelines of leadership. Our Airmen deserve genuine leaders that will inspire them to try, fail, and try again until the mission is accomplished and everyone grows. Within this book I will share with you methods and techniques that are not covered in traditional professional military education courses to become the genuine leader the Air Force needs. This book has not been reviewed or edited by the Air Force; these are my unfiltered thoughts and advice that resonates from a deep passion to develop current and future leaders within the Air Force towards their full potential. This book is my “pay it forward” to develop leaders that remain true to themselves throughout their tour as squadron command tour. Bottom line, squadron command is the most rewarding position an officer will have the honor of serving within their career. You might serve in higher positions or at a higher rank, but squadron command offers the most direct opportunity to shape the next generation of leaders within the Air Force. The impact you will have on both enlisted and officers that come in contact with will exist well beyond you tour, which is why you need to be aware of the arc within the entirety of your command tour and deliver maximum impact along the way. While you can’t predict every event you will encounter over your tour, you can build an understanding of the general timing and tempo on how to approach common challenges and scenarios. No book will have all of the solutions for squadron command, and this book is no exception. However, by the end of this book you will be armed with advice and guidance to unlock your potential and be proud of what you have accomplished until you say three more simple words: “I relinquish command.”
So no pressure…just don’t fuck this up.