Training Squadron of the Year: Reflecting on excellence

Leadership and instructors for the 365th Training Squadron pose in front of a C-130 on the ground instruction training aircraft ramp at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 25, 2016. The 365th TRS received the 2016 Training Squadron of the Year award from Brig. Gen. Patrick Doherty, 82nd Training Wing commander.

Leadership and instructors for the 365th Training Squadron pose in front of a C-130 on the ground instruction training aircraft ramp at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, March 25, 2016. The 365th TRS received the 2016 Training Squadron of the Year award from Brig. Gen. Patrick Doherty, 82nd Training Wing commander.

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas-- --

The announcement was delivered via email on March 22, 2016: “On behalf of Brig. Gen. Patrick Doherty, please congratulate the 365th Training Squadron on their selection as the 82nd Training Wing's Training Squadron of the Year… ” Due to the caliber of Sheppard organizations, I can only speculate it was an extremely close race; however, this particular message delivered a fire and ice effect by igniting a sense of pride, while simultaneously humbling the men and women of the 365th.  To what can this honor be attributed? 

It all begins with leadership of the “top-down” variety.  A mentor of mine, Lt. Col. Jason Loschinskey, once shared that leadership is about “being close enough to inspire, yet far enough away for your Airmen to realize their own successes and failures.”  Of course, as leaders, we own our airmen’s failures and make it a point to recognize those individuals for their successes. Our commander, Lt. Col. Arnold H. Bowen, has mastered that particular art and infused a culture of dignity and respect, thereby creating an environment where unit members are inclined and challenged to exercise their maximum potential. 

One tactic we utilize to tap into our team’s potential can be found within the pages of Tom Rath’s Strengths Finder 2.0.  We often generate more return on investment by focusing on what one is naturally good at as opposed to devoting the same amount of time to competencies we lack.  Identifying talents and skill sets within the squadron and sharpening those particular tools has paid out in dividends for our team.  With that said, striking a balance between enhancing pre-existing skills and getting Airmen out of their comfort zone can be an art in itself, and I would surmise that both approaches are fundamentally important when creating well rounded warfighters.

Lt. Col. Bowen stated, “The effort that went into this 365th accomplishment was the product of “Deliberate Action”.  We wanted to ensure everyone doing great things in the unit had the opportunity to showcase their talents on one stage or another.  Some worked with other squadrons to improve their processes, others provided well needed volunteer support where it was needed around the base, and many more provided assistance to the community.  Those are just a few of the things our people did.  Closer to home we spread our wings and raised our student training numbers by 200 personnel with the unprecedented acquisition of Avionics Fundamentals from Keesler Air Force Base.  We spread our wings even further and coordinated with the aircraft maintenance community to organize and right fit our training to the needs of the operational Air Force.  There are a myriad of things to speak about, but I want stress the fact that we pursued everything with passion and relentless effort.  Ultimately our desire was to shine light on avionics and showcase how awesome these aircraft maintainers really are.

BIRDS OF PREY!”

 

As the commander stated, 365th is no stranger to developing ideas and forging change.  In fact, the collective efforts of 176 avionic educators culminated in the benchmarking and aided in the establishment of six wing, Numbered Air Force, and Headquarters Air Force processes and programs.

 

The competence and capabilities of our unit members continues to inspire me every day.  The Developmental Special Duty Program provides a calculated mechanism to vector the right people to the right jobs, and while the system continues to undergo minor refinement, the vetting process has been rock solid.  It truly delivers the best and brightest airmen I have had the privilege of working alongside.  In fact, they are so sharp, we struggle to keep them.  Over the last year five non-commissioned officers hung up their stripes for a set of gold bars and a commission. 

 

I would be remiss to not mention our Military Training Leaders.  Their mentorship and professionalism molded 1,400 students and facilitated the unit’s receipt of the 82 TRW Military Training Flight of the Year award. In addition to uniformed personnel, our civilians are the bedrock of continuity for the school-house, providing over 600 years of education and training experience.

 

“Securing eighteen million dollars for new heavy avionics trainers will allow us replace 1980s technology and afford hands on opportunities and up-to-date applications for our students.  It is rewarding to know the labor of our predecessors and tireless effort from the current team has finally come to fruition,” said Mr. Joe Rock, senior civilian. 

 

Capt. Steven Draughon, director of operations, noted, “It’s been 20 years in the making to centralize avionic technical training.  Last January provided closure to that particular vision when the Avionic Fundamentals Course relocated from Keesler AFB, Mississippi to Sheppard.  We had to be creative with manning and overcome a learning curve, but in the end, we successfully completed 76 classes, and twenty-one thousand hours of instruction.  In addition, centralizing the course saved the Air Force one million dollars per year in student relocation costs.  Among other accolades, ten civilian instructors received Notable Achievement Awards for the Avionics Fundamentals undertaking.”            

 

There are many paths that lead to excellence.  In my estimation, the 365th’s formula consists of top-down leadership, focusing on strengths, taking deliberate actions, innovation, and quality people.  I am honored and privileged to serve with such a family.