Grow organizations through core group discussion

  • Published
  • By Maj. Mark Ashman
  • 86th Maintenance Operations Squadron commander
"Airmen make the mission happen."

Senior leaders have echoed this sentiment time and again to show their appreciation for what Airmen do on a daily basis. With the ever changing face of the Air Force, this sentiment has never been more important than it is today!

In recent years, the Air Force has gone through trying times facing budget constraints while working to meet Congressional end-strength mandates associated with the drawdown of Air Force personnel; all the while engaged in multiple operations across the globe to ensure our Nation's freedom. In light of all this, Airmen and civilians are at the core of our force and they are the ones that make the mission happen every day. As we strive to meet these mission demands, how well do we really know our coworkers, our civilians and our Airmen?

In an effort to reshape this dynamic, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, 20th Chief of Staff of the Air Force, launched an initiative while serving as commander of the United States Air Forces in Europe to strengthen our core. He envisioned commanders, supervisors and leaders taking time out of their day to sit down in small groups and build a sense of community, encourage honest two-way communication and empower Airmen to focus on our core values.

For those that have had the opportunity to hear Welsh speak at an awards banquet, professional military education graduation or squadron commander's Course; one common thread he reiterated time and again was "every Airmen has a story...we all need to learn their stories." He suggested that one way to learn their stories was to set aside time each month to sit down with our Airmen, talk with them and learn their stories.

To shape Welsh's vision, the USAFE staff put together some broad topics for leaders to fall back on as they weave core concepts such as integrity, honor, service, camaraderie, excellence and courage into core-group discussions. Within the 86th Maintenance Group, and more specifically the 86th Maintenance Operations Squadron, we have taken hold and embraced Welsh's vision. To date, we have held two core-group sessions.

The first core-group session focused on excellence, a topic all Airmen could rally around. During four, individually-led sessions, there was a unified consensus of what excellence is. This common topic morphed into a springboard for Airmen, within each of the groups, to open up and share personal experience, beliefs and morals associated with their upbringing, personal morals and family values.

In the second core-group session, supervisors branched out and chose topics related to camaraderie, integrity, honor and service. This session proved to be very beneficial because some of the more junior Airmen were asked to lead discussions. This empowered them to research their topics, lead the group, allocate time for each member to contribute and recap those key points that were discussed. Additionally, the feedback after the core group sessions concluded was very positive and the core group leaders were praised for their leadership and courage.

In the camaraderie core-group session, the Airmen felt that our squadron was a tight knit unit and they took this opportunity to provide suggestions to further enhance camaraderie and boost morale. In the integrity core-group session, Airmen discussed the importance of completing tasks to the best of their ability and agreed that each task should be accomplished with integrity.. They also agreed that sometimes doing the right thing is not always the popular decision, but it is the right decision.

In the core-group session that discussed honor, the team spent some time defining honor; discussing actions that are deemed honorable and identifying examples seen throughout their career where honor was comprised. Finally, in the core-group session that touched on service, the team clearly understood the meaning of service before self, but they struggled with coming to terms with striking a proper balance between work and family. The team concluded the session by agreeing that each member determines the proper balance for them.

At this point in time, we are benefiting from the mission of core-groups because we are building meaningful communities within the squadron and we have begun to "produce meaningful peer conversations on the values and virtues of being an Airman."....

How has your organization grown, and are you benefitting from core-group discussion?