The Key to Success: Supervisor Involvement

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Kevin M. Coyne
  • 390th Intelligence Squadron commander
An often-used phrase in our Air Force -- something we use at commander's calls and see in print from senior leaders all the time -- is "our people are our most valuable resource." As I conclude my command of the 390th Intelligence Squadron at Kadena and reflect on the past two years, I can confirm this to be the case. What made my assignment more than just another job was the quality of the people I served with and the responsibility I held as commander to take care of them. In fact, the high professional caliber of our young men and women in uniform today became evident again just this past week when one of my Staff Sergeants won the coveted Staff Sgt. Henry "Red" Erwin Outstanding Career Enlisted Aviator of the Year award for 2008 at the Air Force level. While this certainly is a milestone in Staff Sgt. Jon Ouchi's career, his accomplishments were recognized because his front-line supervisor was involved in his life and job. His immediate supervisor and supervisory chain took care of him.

As a commander, I can't emphasize enough how important supervisor involvement is to the success of a unit and the "caring and feeding" of its people; in my view, it is the key to success. A commander is one individual; he or she may impart vision, give direction and guidance, reiterate Air Force policy and stress compliance. But if said vision, guidance and direction isn't executed and enforced at the supervisor level, a commander's job, along with the jobs of a unit's senior leaders is twice as hard. At the end of the day all of us -- and I know many of you share my view--have to rely on the front-line supervisor to execute direction from above; be it on the flightline, work center, aboard an R-135, or on the mid-shift of one of the 55th Wing's Tactical Surveillance Interaction Centers. We also rely on these same supervisors to take additional time --after they just spent the day executing the mission -- to write enlisted performance reports, draft citations and submit decoration packages so that our "most valuable resource" is taken care of. I look back on these past two years with pride because the majority of supervisors in my unit get it; they take the time because they know it has to be done, it's their responsibility and their obligation to the outstanding young Americans in their charge. They take the time because they see many potential Red Erwin winners in their Airmen.

It is this sort of can-do attitude that makes or breaks a unit. Our Airmen see that their supervisors care enough about their daily contributions to our Air Force mission that they are willing to take the extra time to get them recognized; this fosters esprit de corps, raises morale and leads to even greater accomplishments. I know this seems intuitive to many of you, but the key message is that we as supervisors must take the time to recognize our people despite all our daily pressures and timelines. Sergeant Ouchi certainly gets this: "Helping out my 'supervisee' get his much-deserved senior airman stripe was by far my most gratifying accomplishment in 2008," he said when interviewed for his award. Imagine the impact this sort of attitude could have in the accomplishment of our air, space and cyberspace mission if we all looked at it the same way?

So my message as an outgoing commander to Air Force supervisors at all levels is to adopt this positive attitude; go the extra mile to recognize your Airmen and help them along in their careers. The impact to the individual is enormous due to the signal it sends: someone cares ... I make a difference; the impact to the squadron is even more far reaching as I can attest from my experiences at the 390th. You never know, the next Red Erwin award winner or Outstanding Airman of the Year might be one of your Airmen in your work center. It may even be you.