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Learning to be a leader

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Roy Uptegraff
  • 171st Air Refueling Wing
Last month I got an invitation to visit McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base to address the students of the Intermediate Development Course (IDC). These students are mostly Majors and Lieutenant Colonels who have been selected by their leadership to learn about the tools they need to become future or better leaders. It is a comprehensive course that covers many National Guard programs and topics a leader needs to understand. It was a real pleasure to get an opportunity to spend 90 minutes with these terrific men and women and talk leadership. I got a dialogue going after I gave them some of my amusing examples of leadership.

One characterization of leadership I like to use is that of a circus lion tamer. Now there is a leader! He has some very big cats he has to command and control and I love the tools he employs - a chair, a whip and a sidearm just in case. You see leadership is about your own control of the whip. Use it sparingly. It is about your own control of that chair in your hand. Keep a safe distance. It is about only using that sidearm because there is absolutely no other option. Shoot the lions and you are out of work! No one is going to pay for an act featuring Siamese kittens. There is a reason why good lion tamers wear red pants. They look good and they hide wounds. Sometimes leadership hurts. So there it is. You are in the ring, you have a show to accomplish and it is not going to be easy and completely predictable. Finally - you made the choices that put you in the ring and we admire you for it. Of course, I shared with them some of the significant issues of our time and their possible impact to the Air National Guard.

I discussed recent policy and decisions from the Secretary of Defense, the National Guard and the Air National Guard. The question and answer session was spirited and enjoyable. The same questions you ask at the 171 ARW are the questions heard across the Air National Guard spectrum. Why do we have inspections when we continuously prove ourselves on deployments? Why is there so much ancillary training when we have only 12 drill weekends a year? Why don't we have more manpower? These are the kinds of issues I truly enjoy discussing and as these majors and lieutenant colonels go further forward; the day will come when they too will be on the receiving end of the problems of the day.

Recently I reviewed the P4 roster. This is the roster of our airmen who are not fit for duty due to injuries, illnesses, or other causes such as pregnancy. We are about to have a Health Services Inspection this November. Please take care of yourselves. Dental exams continue to be an area of attention. Too many of you - full-time and part-time - are not getting them accomplished and I fail to understand why. Our health inspection is not only about the records and attention our medical group provides. It is also about the efficiency of maintaining the force. It does not look good and it is not a credit to the nation when we have airmen who are not taking care of themselves or not providing necessary documentation for us to keep them prepared for duty. Commanders, chiefs, first sergeants, supervisors and friends can help me with that one.

Finally, hunting season is upon us and as always, I encourage you to be safe and sensible as we finish the year. I continue to be troubled by off-duty serious injuries we see every month. We need all of you to be continuously prepared to meet the mission. Flu shots will be available at your next drill! Be safe.