Mission success for our Nation

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. John Zapata
  • 86th Communications Squadron commander
Mission success in the Air Force has always required a high level of commitment. Former legendary Green Bay Packers Head Coach Vince Lombardi once stated, "Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work." Nowhere is teamwork more important than in the U.S. Air Force...and today it may be more essential than at any time in our history.

The Air Force is undergoing tremendous change and uncertainty. We face major challenges as we near the drawdown of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the retooling of an aging aircraft fleet, the uncertain future of an unstable world, and a fiscally constrained environment that requires incredible stewardship of our taxpayer dollars to fund the day-to-day mission and training requirements.

How will we make it? How will we continue to deliver, as we always have for the American way of life? The answer lies in Lombardi's quote and the reason for his success as a coach--a burning commitment to the team and goals of the organization. In order to achieve the kind of success our nation requires we must have two essential components that I have talked about and written about in the past--motivated followership and positive leadership.

Motivated followership--what does that mean? I believe it means following the direction, vision and goals of our leadership with a spirit that inspires others. As I often tell my unit, there are approximately 330,000 members on the active duty force and approximately 270,000 of them are enlisted Airmen--there should be no mistake about who makes the mission happen every day. Our enlisted Airmen are the key to our success. Their motivated followership as an element of the team's commitment to excellence will surely help us meet any challenges on the horizon. I also believe attitude is a key component of motivated followership. Retired Major General Ted Mercer used to say, "If you believe it, you can achieve it!" A positive attitude is one of the most desired traits of a teammate and an absolute requirement for motivated followership. It is the glue that holds the team together during the turbulent times, which we know are always just over the horizon.

Another vital component to the team success is positive leadership. I believe there is no other organization in the Air Force with more positive leaders than we currently have here in U.S. Air Forces in Europe and at Ramstein Air Base. Having just spent a week in the USAFE squadron commander's course and having the opportunity to listen and spend time with Gen. Mark Welsh and our 86th Airlift Wing Commander Brig. Gen. C.K. Hyde it is clear we have leaders who truly epitomize positive leadership. But what does that mean? I think it means genuine concern for your people, a clear way ahead to meet the mission requirements, and an infectious positive attitude. Make no mistake about it--our leadership carries a tremendous responsibility and places great thought on where we are going as a team.

Effectively combined, motivated followership and positive leadership enable a team to overcome any adversity, achieve any goal, and in our case, ensure our nation's freedoms and way of life...or as Vince Lombardi so aptly stated, "People who work together will win." I believe in the tough days ahead our success will depend on our followership and our leadership combining to deliver on the promise of success our Air Force and nation demand.