Undercover Boss and the value of partnerships

Lt. Col. John Vaughn, 48th Airlift Squadron commander

Lt. Col. John Vaughn, 48th Airlift Squadron commander

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Perhaps some of you have seen that new television show, "Undercover Boss."
For those of you who haven't, the premise is that the CEO of a company goes undercover and works in a couple different positions far removed from the office furniture, staff meetings and power lunches we normally associate with the term "CEO." While watching a CEO try to man an assembly line or load boxes can be comical at times, there is a bigger point. The CEO wants to know what really goes on in the company and how he or she can make it better.

A few weeks ago, I got to sort of play "Undercover Boss." I made no effort to hide my identity, and I'm not the boss of the people I went to work with ... Gold AMU. For those of you not familiar with the 48th Airlift Squadron's relationship with Gold AMU (or simply Gold), Gold provides maintenance support for the seven aircraft at the C-130J Flying Training Unit. We couldn't train C-130J aircrew members without them. "Vital" would be an understatement.

For that reason, I wanted to go on the flightline, spend time with them, and get to see how they did their mission. What goes into generating an aircraft sortie? How long does it take? Are the people happy? What's on their minds?

Before I answer those questions, let me start by thanking the leadership at Gold for allowing this to happen. It has made me a better commander -- and I sincerely hope you will see that reflected in our units' relationship. And a special thanks to Senior Airman Daniel Ward who allowed me to shadow him for the day. Airman Ward will be the 48th's "Commander for the Day" in the near future. I look forward to returning the favor.

I learned that waiting for an aircraft to launch can be pretty boring -- if you've done your job well ... And they had. I also got a new appreciation for working on top of the wing. Somehow a plane running its engines in the spot in front of me means more to me now than it used to. I can see how people could get focused on a task up there and slip or lose their balance. Did I mention the top of the aircraft gets really hot when it's 90 degrees outside? And yes, I even got to turn some wrenches -- but don't worry, I was supervised the whole time. And the people? Phenomenal people! Phenomenal professionals. Do they have issues, concerns and complaints? Of course. In fact, I've already brought some of those issues up with our senior enlisted members. Will we fix them all? No, but that doesn't mean we won't try.

At this point you might be thinking, that's nice -- some guy I don't know got to be a maintainer for a day, and he had fun and learned a lot -- so what? Col. Mark Czelusta, the 314th Airlift Wing commander, says our mission is "pointless and impossible without partnerships." Normally, when we think about partnerships on that scale, we think about the partnership of the 314th AW, 189th Airlift Wing and 19th Airlift Wing -- or between nations like India and the U.S. We don't think about the guy down the hall who brings in the reports (you need to do your job) twice a week...or the office to which you send every single person after they've processed through you. How does that guy do his job? And what about that other office? Are we overloading them? The point is our partners are all those people and organizations we work with and depend on daily. We should all strive to better understand our partners and their needs. If we do a better job of meeting their needs, they'll do a better job of meeting ours. So who are your partners and what do you need to learn about them? One of mine just happens to set the standard for C-130J maintenance excellence.

Thank you Gold!