All roads lead to Goodfellow

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Karen Rolirad
  • 315th Training Squadron
 It's been18 years since the first time I entered the main gate at Goodfellow. As a young lieutenant, I was excited about the possibilities of a new career; abhorred by the austerity of West Texas, and obstinate against the possibility that Air Education and Training Command could teach me something I didn't already know.

As a seasoned commander, I see my Officer's and Airmen with the same looks in their eyes: each trying to find the quickest exit or highway out. Now with experience as my guide, I have come to realize that everything of value that I have learned in the Air Force, I learned at Goodfellow.

1. Great Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Training leads to great Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Operations - Never before has ISR been more important than today. The principles of "Find, Fix, Track, Target, Engage and Assess" are harmonized in every classroom, tested during every exercise and reinforced at every graduation. These principles are the foundation of our ISR tradecraft. They were the same critical elements used to successfully find, seek and destroy Osama Bin Laden. Over the past ten years, our graduates have collected, translated, processed, analyzed and driven Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance platforms and operations. Their efforts resulted in the transformation of the ISR career field and, most importantly have greatly impacted today's war on Terrorism.

2. True leaders have the courage to stand alone - Leadership is the ability to motivate, to inspire, to direct those around you to execute and achieve the commander's intent. True leaders have the courage to stand-alone. This is often hard for those who are greatly influenced by friends, colleagues, and peer-pressure. Despite these challenges, I have found true leaders in every rank. I have witnessed the most junior Airmen stand against their peers to denounce underage drinking, malingering and misconduct. I have seen junior officers make the hard choices to uphold professionalism, integrity, excellence and service despite the influences of their superiors, peers and subordinates. Standing alone takes courage and strength despite the circumstances and consequences. It is always easier to follow the pack, but those who have the courage to stand apart make the real difference.

3. Teamwork is essential to successful operations - The strength of the United States Air Force and the ISR career field is reflected in the outstanding Officers, NCOs and Airmen who work together every day to achieve successful operations. For example, the success of the Distribute Common Ground System is in the crew of Officers and Enlisted who conduct ISR operations as an impenetrable team. Together, they "Find, Fix, Track, Target, Engage and Assess" the enemy. Their efforts enhanced the weapon system used to drive daily operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every successful team has one thing in common: practice. Therefore, officers must learn to lead Airmen, NCOs and Airmen to follow Officers. This is critical in both the operational and training environment. At Goodfellow, we take every opportunity to "train like we fight."

4. Everyone makes mistakes - As a commander of 1, 500 Officers and Airmen, good order and discipline is critical to running a successful squadron. Some Officers and Airmen need only know the rules to follow them; others must test the system to determine its boundaries. The reasons for testing the system often vary: from immaturity and inexperience to obstinacy and defiance. These deviations are often met with judicial or non-judicial punishment. Does getting in trouble mean the end to someone's career? In short the answer is simply "it depends." Everyone makes mistakes, the true character of an individual is what they do after they receive their discipline. Do they continue to make the same mistakes and disregard the rules? Or do they rehabilitate into outstanding Officers, NCOs and Airmen. I have witnessed both during my time as a commander. The real question is whether these Officers and Airmen can be an asset to the Air Force despite their shortcomings. History has proven that some of our greatest leaders have made mistakes and received discipline for their actions; yet they have risen to be Generals and Chief Masters Sergeants who have greatly influenced and led our Air Force.

5. Passion is contagious - Every morning I get the privilege of watching our Airmen march to school. Before I see them coming down the troop walk, I hear them. Their passion and enthusiasm for the United States Air Force and the pride they convey for their airmanship is overwhelming. As they end their journey, they professionally recite the Airmen's Creed. "I will not falter and I will not fail," resounds through every building and squadron in the Training Group. The passion and enthusiasm that our Airmen display reminds me of why I joined the Air Force and why our Air Force is great. It reminds me to be passionate in everything we do and to embrace every new job and assignment with enthusiasm. It not about the job or the location, it 's about what we bring to it.

The lessons that I have learned at Goodfellow are invaluable and will extend far past the Air Force. As an outgoing squadron commander, I am thankful for the all the tremendous opportunities I have received here. For those of you who are looking for the nearest highway to leave Goodfellow, I am comforted to know that you too will return: as students of advanced courses, future instructors and commanders. The lessons you have learned and bring with you will shape the future of ISR and the U.S.A.F.