Panels pave ‘Road to Squadron Command’

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. William A. O’Brien
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

The 55th Wing hosted two Road to Squadron Command panels at the Dougherty Conference Center Jan. 10, 2022.

The panels, moderated by Col. Kristen Thompson, 55th Wing commander, were designed to help develop young officers who have hopes of one day serving as squadron commanders.

“We were lucky to have two panels with a multitude of current commanders, each with diverse experiences,” Thompson said. “There’s no one-size-fits-all leadership style and, similarly, no standard route to squadron command; these panels illustrated that variability. Panel members’ unique experiences contributed to unique perspectives and a wider range of experience to draw from when fielding questions from tomorrow’s leaders, the young officers in the audience.”

The event was held in two different time slots to maximize participation while limiting crowd sizes. The two separate panels were comprised of several current squadron commanders, each with different experiences borne of their time in service, backgrounds, and their unique specialties. Discussion focused on professional development, commanders’ experiences, and questions from the attendees.

“Being a squadron commander, I feel that a big part of my job is developing leaders for the Air Force, so doing things like this is part of that responsibility because I won’t be here forever,” said Lt. Col. Michael Harris, 55th Strategic Communications Squadron commander, who served as a panelist. “I will eventually retire, and somebody else will have to do it. The mission will not stop; we need to ensure the next generation is ready to take our place.”

The event was held to prepare leaders for challenges and opportunities they will face in their careers, part of an overall emphasis on professional development, a focus within the 55th Wing Priorities of Mission, Family and Relationships.

Better developed leaders create positive mission impacts, but Air Force investment in Airmen and Guardians is an invest in families as well. In addition, these opportunities foster relationships between these young officers and commanders they will utilize in their personal and professional lives.

“The insight gleaned by attendees provided a behind-the-scenes look at command,” said Maj. Samuel Greenwell, 55th Intelligence Squadron, who attended the course. “There’s an interesting diversity of how the squadron commander position operates within the different units these people all lead. I attended to get a better insight into and understanding of that job and to hear how each of these leaders address those duties and responsibilities in different ways depending on the different squadrons they lead.

“[We] inherently know what squadron command is, but we are peeking behind the curtain to see what exactly it entails,” he continued. “It was valuable to hear the different points-of-view on how to make those decisions.”

Guided discussion and question-and-answer sessions allowed attendees to broaden their perspectives and see how other leaders make decisions and why. The young officers were also able to note the importance of the various roles they will hold as their careers progress, seeing how those roles and experiences will shape them as leaders.

“Throughout our careers it is important to continue to grow,” said Greenwell. “Mentorship is a great way to do that. Allowing junior officers, who have an interest in becoming a squadron commander, the chance to ask questions of current squadron commanders may help make it clearer what they need to do to reach that goal.”