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Preparing for a winning season

SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- A short time ago, I had the pleasure of spending some time with Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo who came to Selfridge for a visit. The coach was at our base to get fitted for a flight suit and equipment that he planned on using to fire up his team and their fans on the eve of the 2011-2012 season. He chose a "Top Gun" theme to both show his sincere support of the military and to publicize their season opener, which will be played on the Navy Aircraft Carrier; the USS Carl Vinson.

While Coach Izzo was being filmed sitting in the cockpit of one of our A-10's, I had a chance to speak with his assistant. I expressed my appreciation that they selected the Military and the 127th Wing to be a focal point of their season. The gentleman immediately replied that there was no need to thank them because the Coach was gaining a tremendous benefit by being with us and interacting with the Airmen of the Wing who were assisting him. Apparently Coach Izzo is a longtime student of Leadership techniques. He spends quite a bit of time studying and observing leadership in action and applies what he learns to build a winning team. Terms familiar to us such as accountability, integrity, selfless behavior, are as much a part of his game plan as the type of defense to play.

That an extremely successful individual known for building successful organizations uses military members as role models really made an impression on me. It really highlights the responsibility we have as military members to maintain our higher standards. Sometimes we forget how unique we are when compared to groups who do not operate based on a set of shared values. The benefits of our culture are clear to me given the numerous examples of politicians, business executives, and other so-called leaders who demonstrate unethical behavior.

Our "Coach" Colonel Thomas has a vision to build the 127th Wing into the finest team in the Air National Guard. He not only wants us to set the standard for mission success but to do so in an environment which is inclusive to all unit members. Recent successes including the AMC NORI/ORI, the A-10 conversion and declaration of Initial Operating Capability, and of course the recent history-making AEF deployment are accomplishments that we should all be proud of. Future challenges on the horizon such as the ACC ORI in 2013, overseas training deployments, and real world tasking will require even more commitment to excellence by all of us.

So what can we do to ensure that we are ready for our season?

· Continue to educate yourself on the principles of leadership. The famous basketball coach realizes that effective leadership is something that can be learned and must be practiced in order to remain sharp. I personally enjoy reading biographies and articles written by successful leaders both military and civilian. The Air Force has a number of websites that contain useful information. Some of my favorites are:

http://www.au.af.mil/au/aunews/ The Air University's Wright Stuff Web Portal
http://aupress.au.af.mil/ Air University Press: Free e-books, articles, and papers
http://af.lib.overdrive.com/ Air Force Digital Media Program. Free e-books and audiobooks for a number of devices. Requires an account obtained by emailing carrie.springer@maxwell.af.mil

· Become an expert on the regulations that apply to your job and help others do the same. Remember as professionals it is our responsibility to be familiar with and follow the guidance in Air Force Regulations. These are our "playbooks". Committing to following their guidance is the price of admission to the military.

http://www.e-publishing.af.mil/ Air Force E-Publication Website

· Mentor and include all members of our team and foster an inclusive environment. The lack of a consistent mentoring program in which we build our next starting lineup is something that is consistently mentioned when unit members provide feedback. Mentoring others is not limited to those in formal leadership positions. Becoming an effective mentor is a skill that can be developed through preparation and practice. I've included a link to a great article on mentoring.
http://www.3creek.com/research/PI_USAF_March07.pdf

Everyone enjoys being on a winning team. The 127th Wing has consistently set the standard for excellence. Let's continue to work on developing the skills necessary to become more effective and look forward to our undefeated season!