JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --
As part of ongoing efforts to develop well-trained, responsive Airmen in support of local and global missions, Air Force District of Washington senior leaders emphasized the value of risk, retention, and readiness at the 2019 Squadron Commander and Spouse Orientation Course in the Gen. Jacob E. Smart Conference Center April 15.
During opening remarks for the five-day immersive course, AFDW Commander Maj. Gen. James A. Jacobson and Command Chief Master Sgt. Melanie Noel prepped about 30 lieutenant colonels, colonels, and their spouses for the rewards and challenges that lie ahead as they mold and lead the Airmen and families within their commands.
“Whatever your family construct is, it’s a little bit larger now because somewhere between 30 and 400 folks have now joined your family for a couple of years,” Jacobson said. “Leading Airmen is as good as it gets and it’s as close as you’ll be to knowing the folks in your unit as well as you know your own family.”
For emerging leaders and their spouses to better face the triumphs and trials of command, the general advised course attendees to find balance and recharge, which he said are critical components to completing their tenure with a sustained amount of energy and zeal.
In addition, Jacobson said, creating a culture of autonomy and confident risk-taking for Airmen to more innovatively perform the mission is paramount as home-front and contingency demands shift.
“Your job is to develop talent and then step out of the way so that your Airmen are ready to take over,” Jacobson said. “Don’t hold the cards so close to your vest that they don’t get an opportunity to see what it’s like and move to the next level.”
The general described the present as a notable chapter in Air Force history, whereby for low-end insurgency warfare will almost certainly evolve over the next 15-20 years. “While we’ve been focused on doing the right things for our nation and the world, some of our peers have been working pretty hard to try and get as equal to us or better in their capabilities.”
As such, Jacobson noted that commanders have a responsibility to lead in an Air Force that has competition and train subordinates to use creative, adaptable decision-making. “If you’re trying to push the envelope and do business in a different way, Airmen need your support -- incentivize the culture so that risk-taking is exciting.”
The general encouraged commanders and their leadership teams to invest in innovative, technology-driven tools to show Airmen that the Air Force is not wedded to the past to solve problems in the future.
Both the general and Noel underscored command as a “team sport,” with families being the linchpin to mission success.
Noel said this equates to families needing to be better prepared for short-notice events and deployments, and buffered with a blueprint for finances and spouse support in the service member’s absence.
“With AFDW being responsible for 32,000 Airmen spanning 100 countries, across 2,000 Air Force elements, we recognize the magnitude of taking care of you and your families so you can best empower and support your Airmen and their families,” Noel said.
Ultimately, Jacobson said, commanders and their spouses are in the business of keeping Airmen devoted to service.
“You are the number one retention tool in the United States Air Force as a squadron commander, and you’re not just retaining that Airmen, you’re retaining their families,” he said. “If Airmen know that you care and you’re trying, that matters.”