Inspiration for a commander

  • Published
  • By Maj. C. Hunter Sawders III
  • 17th Security Forces Squadron commander
Command is a tough gig. I'm not complaining; believe me when I say I love it and don't want to do anything else in my Air Force career, but it is a tough job. So why do I love it?

I don't do it for the money. As all military people are aware none of us will get rich serving our country. It isn't the power; I'm just not made that way. So what keeps me going and inspired when I could very easily do something else, serve my country and deal with less stress?

It is the people I serve directly. We all serve America and its citizens and that is motivating, but my real charge comes from getting IT, whatever IT is, right for those I serve directly. Those I serve directly are my troops and, yes, my bosses.

Saying that might spark a question. What is so special about these people I have identified? I can answer that generally and specifically. Generally, they have a measure of devotion to higher principles than the bulk of society. The intangibles are important to them. Intangibles like honor, integrity and serving a higher cause.

Some of them have joined recently at risk of life and sacrificing some of the things most citizens take for granted like being with their families on holidays etc. Some of them have already worked almost their entire adult lives serving their country and have made the nation a better place for the past 20, 25 or even 30 years.

Specifically, I am inspired by a leader who is excited about work everyday and never expected to achieve so much in a career, which shows how grounded and modest this leader is.

I am inspired by a member of my unit who has cancer and only wants to continue serving and make master sergeant, forget early retirement. Another member is so concerned about the leadership image she presents to the troops that she lost 60 pounds in a few months after pregnancy. Her discipline is inspiring as is the reason behind it.

I have two members of my unit who are looking at the very ends of their careers and you can't tell it from their performance and how they take care of the troops. They are as dedicated as if the next rank was achievable and they had another twenty years to look forward to.

I am inspired by a young NCO who has been in for about ten years and has deployed seven times for six months each time. I watch the Airmen of the unit learn from him and see the strength of his leadership and know the future is bright.

I am inspired by civilian employees who give more than is required because their work ethic stayed with them from when they served on active duty. An NCO who has more additional duties than I knew existed but still achieves excellence and praise for his performance in every single thing he does, inspires me.

I am inspired by contract security people who don't get much notice but nevertheless keep us safe when they catch people trying to sneak onto the base. Trust me when I say we don't pay them enough for the excellence they provide. For that matter, if excellence were the measure for the military pay scale then all of these people who inspire me to command are woefully underpaid. They don't care...and it is another reason they inspire me.

I get inspiration from a staff sergeant who doesn't even like the job he does, forced to crosstrain, but is the best I have ever seen do the job anyway. I am inspired by flight chiefs, young NCOs, who would make good corporate executives on the outside and who I trust to make life and death decisions in split seconds.

How do I get IT right for all these inspirational people? I take care of their needs, reward and even discipline accordingly so they grow. I help them achieve their goals. I answer the questions they have about projects or areas where I am their expert. I stay reliable to all of these people. I don't always get it right, but I live for when I do.

I suspect many of my fellow commanders are inspired along similar lines. This article is thanks in a way to all the people who make serving my country the journey that it is.

It is the quality of those who surround me that keeps me energized and I hope this article will have some others out there reflect on what their military family really means to them as well.