Philosophy of a commander

  • Published
  • By Col. Jeffrey White
  • 336th Training Group commander
Throughout my career, I've had the opportunity to work with all branches of the armed forces. On one tour at the Marine Corp Air Station New River, N.C., I was assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron 204 (VMMT-204) as an initial instructor cadre, flying the MV-22 Osprey. The commanding officer of that squadron taught me a very valuable lesson about leadership and the contract that you have with all of those in your command.

Over the years I have modified that contract depending on the organization that I commanded; however, all levels of command have the same basic truths that cannot be violated without having a negative impact. It is a signed contract between me and my command. I offer this as an example for all levels of supervision and leadership to use as you see fit. It has worked well for me. The following is my contract with the 336th Training Group, best known as the U.S. Air Force survival, evasion, resistance and escape School:

1. I believe that command is a sacred trust. As the 336th TRG commander, I am personally responsible for everything involved within our group, including our collective performance. This is solely my responsibility. That said, I do not own this group - as members of it, we all do. While effective training is the primary mission of this organization, the most precious and valuable resource we have is the SERE personnel who comprise the group. They are my focus. I enthusiastically accept stewardship of the 336th Training Group, U.S. Air Force SERE School.

2. Our Air Force core values, integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do, apply 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. Respecting the human dignity inherent in every individual will create an environment where effective communication and collaboration can flourish. In turn, this will promote individual development and serve to enhance the group's capabilities. Additionally, we have an obligation not only to our group and to ourselves, but also to those who have gone before us. Each of us will be held accountable for our actions. Every member of this group is an official representative of the U.S. Air Force and a direct reflection of our organization's level of professionalism.

3. Leadership by example is our style. Every member is tasked with the responsibility, and provided an opportunity, to directly influence the group's character and level of performance. This commits our most valuable resource to accomplish the most fundamental and important task, to define the 336th TRG. Every action will effectively communicate and demonstrate our standards. Despite our skill set, we always show our professionalism through our personal appearance, our conduct and our military courtesies. The professionals of the 336th TRG do not fail to meet the standards set for them.

4. As followers, we perform our assigned duties with excellence, and we execute the legal orders of our appointed superiors. We strive to speak with one voice. As differences arise, open and professional discussion is key to diplomacy. Our goal is to ensure that our school produces the best SERE specialists possible, who can best provide the highest quality SERE Training to the 16,000 students who undergo SERE training annually.

5. This is our group. Each of us are integral in its success; each of us are responsible for elevating the Air Force SERE School to the next level. Our nation, our sister services and our fellow servicemembers are all counting on our professional execution to clearly establish the way to the future. We do not squander our opportunities for organizational excellence. We will not fail.