A time for everything

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Patrick Albritton
  • 336th Training Support Squadron Commander
There have been songs, religious verses and educational books written about life and its many challenges through change -- currently we are in the season of those PCSing. As we PCS or receive new Airmen to our organizations, the status quo that we may have become accustom to is unhinged and we have to find a new balance in our lives.

Last year at this time I made a huge change in my life as I transitioned from the Pentagon as a staff officer in the Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration Office to my first command as the 336th Training Support Squadron commander at the USAF Survival School. At the same time as I was transitioning into my new position, so was my director of operations, but his was a little more severe of an adjustment. The DO for my first command was going to be a medical officer, a psychologist to be exact. Not the typical situation in an organization that is quite similar to a mission support group.

My first instinct to this command structure was of concern, but though it may sound like Air Force rhetoric, I trusted in the decision of those above me and came in with the attitude of "an officer first." His career field didn't matter; he was an Air Force officer. Now, almost a year later, I am glad he was my DO. He did an amazing job and always made sure the mission was accomplished. Plus, he had a great couch that was always open for me, but when discussing things he always asked me "now how does that make you feel."

With any change in your life, try to glean from the circumstances and those around you. Pick up new skills and ideas -- at the same time make yourself available to mentor others.

The famous American psychologist Abraham Maslow said, "If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail."

Don't be that Airman who relies on only one tool, fill your experience toolbox with everything you can. During this busy PCS season, filled with inspections and new bosses, you will need every tool you can to adjust and find your new balance. Another mentor of mine once said that you can either count on the tools you carry or hope that your bag of luck doesn't run out. The problem with that is hope isn't a plan and you just never know how full or empty that luck bag is.

I followed my own advice this past year. Due to a deployment, my network operations section was minus their senior NCO. This was a very busy time for them and though they were fully capable of handling the situation, I decided to temporarily back-fill the position to provide them top cover.

They were in the midst of working the communication requirements for the new SERE headquarters facility, implementing new hardware and making sure all SERE courses had viable network connections. I picked the best master sergeant I had - a medical administration troop. This time I had no apprehension -- I knew she was the right person for the job. To me she didn't carry a medical AFSC, she carried a tool bag that she had filled with more than hammers. Not only did the network operations section continue to shine, but they flourished in accomplishments and awards.

Life in general, whether in the military or not, is constantly changing. In the military we are lucky that we get to interact with so many different people that have had so many different experiences. What an amazing atmosphere to be in; so many people to glean new tools from. Listening to my new group commander I learned a new perspective. According to him, we aren't either good leaders or managers, we are both. We should strive to create the proper balance of the two.

We typically speak about military commanders and superintendents in terms of being good leaders or managers depending on their roles. Roles do change depending on the situation. The challenge is to constantly balance the proper alignment of managing and leading. During the PCS season when there is lots of change, and you are trying to balance out what the organization needs, three important tools come to mind: trust, patience and communication.

Trust that those in place will continue to carry the torch. Trust that the new Airmen will fall into place. As you lead and manage your organization, have patience, not everyone has the same tools to help them through change. Communicate your intensions and acknowledge that it will take time to achieve the correct balance. Remember, things will change again.