Past leaders shape future success



Commentary by Col. Michael Bedard
45th Weather Squadron


5/6/2006 - Patrick AFB, Fla.  -- As professionals in Air Force weather, we tend to focus on the technology and techniques of our trade. However, as important as these tools are, the most important factors are the people who develop and use them.

Yes, people really are our most valuable resources. Without people doing the mission day-in and day-out, no leader can accomplish the duty of leading units to organizational and mission success. We've seen many changes in technology over the years, all of which have helped us move forward in one way or another.

As technological leaders, we can't stand still if we want to improve how we provide relevant weather operations to our warfighters. Past leaders realized a complete effort required going "beyond the wall" presented by a challenge.

Leadership inspires people, at all levels of responsibility, to perform their daily duties and empowers them to take the next step to improve their processes for the future. Without past leadership, we would not have received the improved technology we use today. The obvious follow-on statement is: we need continued leadership to meet the challenges we will see tomorrow. You can be a leader at any level. We even see that in the Air Force core value of 'Excellence In All We Do.' It applies to everyone. I have seen flight commanders jump in and "take the bull by the horns," and forecasters leading by example; both stepping up to help another team member get the job done. We must all remember to do the right thing.

Doing what's right usually means putting the needs of the organization ahead of individual needs and desires. This invokes another core value of 'Service Before Self.' Air Force weather team members are not only technical leaders but also operational leaders. At the 45th Weather Squadron, our vital mission is providing weather support to America's space program at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center.

Space shuttle launch and recovery is arguably the most weather-sensitive mission in the Department of Defense. Therefore, we must always strive to perform our operations perfectly today and do even better tomorrow. Fortunately, we have been blessed with some of the most talented and motivated meteorologists in Air Force weather. Some recent examples of our contributions have included helping the 45th Space Wing launch an improved GPS satellite to provide better positioning data to all warfighters. As part of the larger wing team, each squadron member has their job to do. While that seems like a very basic statement, it is a reminder to know our job and don't wait around for someone else to do it. "Make it happen," as my Squadron Officer School instructor often said.

The 45th WS also helped NASA return to space with the Space Shuttle Discovery "Return to Flight" STS-114, the first of two RTF missions. Because the shuttle landed at Edwards AFB CA, four of our team members put aside personal needs and worked diligently, excitedly, and willingly, to bring Discovery back to KSC safely. Doing the right thing may sometimes mean going on a short notice deployment to help the space shuttle or perhaps deploying and fighting the War on Terrorism. This time, their efforts received praise from the long-time shuttle ferry flight pilots as providing "the best ferry flight weather support ever seen!" Great teamwork and unity paid off again. Regardless of any "walls" they faced, the team persevered and completed the mission. The unit developed this tremendous team work-ethic over many years, individually with personal pride, but also together in preparing for the 45th Space Wing Operational Readiness Inspection in May 2005. Knowing how each member fits into the mission is a great help to us and to the customer in accomplishing that mission.

Everyone has to be a team player. If not, leaders need to lead and coach them into that mindset. Everyone is an essential part of a successful mission. But, what works today may not always work for the increased technology of tomorrow. We must continuously strive to improve our operations and support to each mission. To do this, we should honor our past, be truthful with our capabilities today, and chart an honest course to make tomorrow even better. The words honor, truth, and honesty summon another core value of 'Integrity First.' It is the glue, which has helped warriors of yesterday and today attain excellence and put service before self.

You might be tired of reading about the Air Force core values. But, no apologies here. Those values are tried and true, and will help us perform the mission today, and should certainly guide our actions in all of our tomorrows. May you always give it your best, do the right thing, and remember, "100 percent effort is beyond the wall."