Strategic Networking

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Shawn M. Gunter
  • Detachment 1, 95th Reconnaissance Squadron commander
I've always considered myself a personable, outgoing person, and I've routinely preferred face-to-face interaction instead of e-mails and phone calls when feasible. It's no secret that while a global entity, the Air Force really is a small community and we consistently cross paths with our subordinates, peers, superiors and civilian teammates throughout our careers. Establishing healthy relationships early and often pays huge dividends for you and your folks until you retire or separate, and even beyond.

As the commander of the 18-member Detachment 1 of the 95th Reconnaissance Squadron at NSA Souda Bay, I find myself an Air Force Ambassador on a U.S. Navy installation in a foreign country where effective personal interaction is critical to successful mission accomplishment, not only for the 55th Wing mission, but for the U.S. Air Force mission as a whole.

I made every effort to meet every division lead when I arrived and now we all recognize each other and know what each of us brings to the fight. I also encourage my most junior to most senior folks to do the same because they're only here for a year and continuity is absolutely critical.

So my advice to the young officers and enlisted troops out there is to engage now. Going out to the different agencies on base and meeting with the experts in their fields early in your career does two things, it builds your self-confidence in meeting new people and establishing long-term relationships and it greatly increases your understanding of those missions outside your organization.

Whenever I'm back at the "mother ship" of Offutt Air Force Base, whether on temporary duty or on leave, I try my best to make it around to as many offices as I can to let the folks know how much I appreciate what they provide for our mission and our people.

Putting faces to names and expressing your thanks does wonders for each party. And definitely don't wait until you or your counterparts are about to move to a new station to let them know how much they mean to you. I've given tokens of appreciation to several individuals out here in Souda during my tenure via letters, coins, detachment lithographs, etc. because I want to ensure healthy two-way relationships with them throughout my stay, not just after I'm gone.

In our military community people generally want to help others, but constant reminders of your appreciation of them only bolsters their motivation to assist and makes you feel better about helping them out whenever in a pinch.

We have a bit of an advantage out here in Souda Bay because we are physically restrained to be a close-knit community, but we still routinely reach back to the folks we know in the various combatant commands and major commands stateside and worldwide for guidance and assistance.

So again, get out early and often, get to know the folks in and around your units so you can best anticipate where to go for help and how you can best help others. I guarantee your networking will pay huge dividends for you and your folks throughout your assignments.