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AF Decision Making 101

  • Published
  • By Col. Robert Thomas
  • 6th Air Mobility WIng Commander
As Commander of the 6th Air Mobility Wing, I have the great honor of leading what I feel is the best wing in the command...period. This should come as no surprise to anyone, as our wing is made up of all of you; the best Airmen in the Air Force. Our Airmen are spectacular; they find a way to successfully accomplish every mission, no matter how tough, many times with less people, in less time, and at a lower cost than anyone ever thought possible. Given this background, you may now wonder: What does the Wing Commander have to do all day?

In practical terms, a large portion of my day is dedicated to making decisions... some easy, some not so easy, and many very, very difficult. The vast majority of decisions simply fall to the Wing Commander by virtue of the authorities granted to the position; others require a WG/CC call because they have a significant impact on wing people, programs, funding or operational capabilities. Unfortunately, by the time things reach my desk, there are very few easy decisions left. What makes the situation even more difficult is many critical decisions I am responsible for concern areas/functions that I have very little or no expertise in...for example the base water supply system, electrical power grid, construction plans, installation privatized housing, or security procedures. Furthermore, there is no possible way to fully prepare an officer for wing command by requiring current functional expertise in every single technical aspect of the wing's mission--an officer with extensive training and experience in so many areas simply does not exist. The good news (for me) is the Air Force provides the answer, through our Core Values, basic tenants of Air Power, and of course, you.

Keeping our Air Force Core Values in mind helps me, and it will help you, make those tough calls. Everything we do must support our Core Values, as those values capture what we as an Air Force are all about. Without question, when you deviate from

Integrity First
Service before Self
Excellence in all we do

you'll begin to make bad decisions and quickly run into problems.

Integrity first, means exactly that. Integrity is the bond that holds Airmen together. We must be truthful, accurate, and honest in everything we do; not some things, not most things, but everything. Without integrity, the chain of command, and our entire structure begins to break down. Likewise, decisions must be based upon our service to the nation--not service to ourselves. Looking out for the nation's interests is what the Air Force is all about. When you begin to put your own personal interests above the call to serve, your utility as an Airman is all but over. And finally, our organizational standard is excellence in all we do...period. Not most of what we do, not some of what we do, but all we do. There is no room for a minimum standard, or "just good enough" attitude. Clearly, any decision that does not live up to these simple Air Force-defining truths is a bad choice.

Couple these organizational values with perhaps the fundamental tenant of air power: "Centralized control, decentralized execution" and you've got a recipe for success. You see the good news is I don't have to be a functional expert in everything the wing does...because you are! You are the smartest, best trained, best equipped, and most disciplined Airmen in history. My goal is lead the best wing, on the best base, in the best Air Force in the world. You are empowered to make the right decisions, based upon your training and position, and focused by our core values to achieve this goal. So to summarize, what I think you'll find is by keeping our core values in mind, the decisions you have to make every day, won't be so tough after all...that what works for your Wing Commander and I'm certain it will work for you too!