Reflecting on command

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Deborah Dillard
  • 17th Medical Operations Squadron Commander
This week marks number 20 of my 24 months of command here and I find myself not wanting to believe time has passed so quickly. I began command just like many of my peers, excited, nervous, anxious and ready to get started. So, now 20 months later I am asking myself what's next, while also taking some time to reflect on the months that have already passed.

When reflecting I ask myself how I am doing and have I made a difference. Many of my peers, friends and family members have asked me, what is like to be a commander. My answer is always the same; you don't know what it's really like until you are in the job. And once you are in the job, you assume an enormous responsibility and accountability for your actions and the actions of the Airmen under your command as you endeavor to excel. You instantly realize your unit, your Airmen are depending on you for leadership and guidance, both skills vital to ensuring mission accomplishment. Your leadership style and character will definitely develop during this time and while others will be there to give you advice, only you can decide what works best for you during this development process. Very often as new commanders and leaders we emulate leaders we have studied throughout or careers or leaders we currently work for or have worked for in our past assignments. I have been very fortunate to have had commanders that had leadership characteristics and qualities I admired and chose to embrace.

During my last three assignments I have worked for commanders that had a significant impact on my leadership development. The mentorship and leadership skills I gained while working for these commanders have helped me to develop into the commander I am today. In addition, the members of my squadron, the most professional and dedicated group of medics I have ever had the pleasure of working with, have been my driving force. As I reflect, I am honored to say their successes, accomplishments and disappointments are my successes, accomplishments and disappointments. However, I am very pleased to say the successes and accomplishments are numerous and disappointments are almost negligible.

After our disappointments we were able to support each other, utilize our resiliency skills to bounce back and continue to move forward to accomplish our mission. As I near the end of my command, there are many nuggets I have learned that I will store in my tool box as I move on to my next assignment. One area that was most important to me during my command was getting to know my Airmen and learning how I can help them to succeed in obtaining their goals. To be able to do this, developing and utilizing good communication and listening skills was fundamental to being successful. This is definitely something I will continue to do throughout my professional career as an Air Force officer or as a civilian nurse administrator; I will "stop" take time to listen to my personnel regardless of rank or position. You may be surprised at how well you can get to know your Airmen and what's going on in your unit when you take time to get to know your people. And finally something I also realized early on, seeking the advice of my First Sergeant and senior enlisted members when addressing any enlisted issues kept me on track and kept problems under control and to a minimum in the unit. Sometimes a decision may seem simple and straight forward but instead may have devastating career impacting consequences.

In about four months when I turn over my command, I am sure I will still be reflecting and asking myself how did I do and did I make a difference. Just like most commanders I want to believe that I have made a difference; how much of a difference, my peers and the members of my squadron will have to decide. I am honored to say ending my command having my unit selected as the 17 Training Wing Unit of the Year 2011 is the highest accolade I have received or believe I will ever receive in my career. I am very proud to be a part of this incredible accomplishment and I congratulate the members of the 17th Medical Operations Squadron for making this all possible. To my squadron I take this opportunity to express publicly my humble thanks and gratitude for the opportunity to be your commander. It is truly an opportunity that can never be matched.