Commander's Comments: Lead Well

  • Published
  • By Col. Craig R. Baker
  • 180th Fighter Wing
It has been just over a month since I have joined the Stinger ranks as the new commander and I want to let you know just how excited I am to be part of your family.

My charge to each of you is simple: LEAD WELL!

Being selected as commander of the Best Fighter Wing in the World is both a privilege and an honor. It is a privilege because command is a gift given to leaders by those who follow, but also given by leaders as an opportunity with a vision. The gift of command brings many responsibilities, but none more important than ensuring mission success and taking care of our Airmen, their families and those communities who support our Airmen and their families.

It is an honor to be commander of a wing as excellent and well known as the 180th Fighter Wing! Commanding this wing and its supporting foundation, our Airmen, inspires emotions that come from the honor of leading those who are willing to sacrifice so much for their country. Stingers are those who define the Profession of Arms, who want to serve something greater than themselves, who voluntarily raised their right hand to join our Air Force in turbulent, demanding times - times they understand could cost them the ultimate price for freedom.

Your dedication to upholding our core values has defined the reputation and successes of the 180th FW time and time again. Our core values inspire us to do our very best, they are my guiding principles, and continue to lay the groundwork for personal and professional standards of conduct at the 180th FW. Living up to these three simple yet vital values and holding ourselves and each other accountable will only guarantee our continued success.

INTEGRITY. Integrity is a character trait. It is the willingness to do what is right, even when no one is looking. It is the moral compass, the inner voice, the beacon of self-control and the basis for trust, which is imperative in today's military. Integrity is a personal choice, an uncompromising and predictably consistent commitment to honorable, moral, ethical, spiritual and artistic values and principles. Integrity is courage, courage is integrity and integrity is a responsibility lived on and off duty all the time.

SERVICE BEFORE SELF. Service before self tells us that professional duties take precedence over personal desires. It's ingrained in our commitment to the nation, it's
represented in the oaths that we take, and it's what motivates me every day to put on the uniform. In Senator John McCain's book, Faith of My Fathers, he says, "glory and honor are achieved only when one serves something greater than himself." The best leaders I know are truly selfless in everything they do, all of the time.

EXCELLENCE IN ALL WE DO. Excellence in all we do directs us to develop a sustained passion for continuous improvement and innovation. This means maintaining your physical and mental edge, and it's about working as a team to reach a common goal in an environment that fosters diversity, honor, dignity, and respect. Every mission, at every wing, demands that we are excellent; excellence should be a way of life...Excellence

My values dictate, if you are wrong, admit it up front. Have personal courage to stand up without compromising personal beliefs for what is right. Treat everyone with dignity and respect - It's at the heart of everything we stand for as a service. Everyone around us brings something to the fight - to serve something greater than yourself, to improve yourself and your organization every day. If you are not improving, you are maintaining. If
you are maintaining, you and your organization are dying.

The American people hold their military to a high standard, and rightfully so. These core values are the common bond of our comrades in arms. We have a duty to live by our core values and to meet or exceed the high standards the American people expect from us. Our nation faces tremendous challenges today, our Airmen will lead the way to better, smarter and more efficient ways to overcome these challenges; they always have and they always will.

LEAD WELL. This is my charge to the 180th FW Airmen. What does this mean? I picked this motto up when I assumed my first leadership role as the 2-ship F-16 Flight Lead. Since then my command experience has been pivotal in helping me identify what exactly this motto is conveying to both leaders and followers. The first word "Lead" implies that you understand and have internalized the concept of leadership, that you have earned that opportunity, and that you continue to grow any organization that you are a part of.

The second word "Well" is a question and a challenge, are you effective at leading? The challenge is that you understand and internalize the responsibilities of a leader, but are you effective with your Airmen, your peers, your bosses, and your organization? The opportunity is to capitalize on every leadership chance and always strive for improvement. An effective leader is one who has forged new paths for others to follow and one who turns every challenge into an opportunity. Effective leadership means
that you have grown your replacement to be better than you and have addressed your boss's, boss's problems. Leaders take ownership, have courage, and are innovative
and ingenious. Effective leadership means that when you fail you learn from your mistakes and become that much stronger. In the end, a leader's performance is measured by the followers under his or her command and how those followers were inspired. When you look back on your experience, I want you to be able to answer this question: did I "Lead Well?" I want you to answer YES because your leadership actions inspired and motivated others to learn, dream, teach, build, understand, to do more, and become more.

The Airmen of the 180th FW are courageous, their pride and dedication are THE assets that determine whether our mission is a success. Our Airmen represent the standards
of excellence expected and are an astounding array of 21st century combat power. Through teamwork and accepting nothing less than excellence we will ensure the 180th continues to deliver combat ready Airmen for federal, state and community missions. Citizen Airmen bring unique and invaluable skill-sets to the fight that must be capitalized on. Failure is not an option and never has been throughout our prestigious militia heritage.

Second best is unacceptable when we are dealing with the protection of our country and our way of life! Therefore, we must take care of our Airmen and their families, and to
that end, I promise my heart and soul to our mission, our Airmen and their families. My job is to ensure that our Airmen understand their value and how proud they should be of their accomplishments.

Remember, yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is the present - so make today count in everything you do. Use every bit of energy for today and have faith because there may not be a tomorrow.

I am so humbled and proud to serve as commander of the 180th Fighter Wing. Thank you for who you are, what you stand for, what you do and how well you do it!

You continue to make me unbelievably proud to be an Airman.

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