Mission is "Theme No. 1"

Col. Mark Czelusta, 314th Airlift Wing commander

Col. Mark Czelusta, 314th Airlift Wing commander

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- When I reintroduced myself to Team Little Rock, I outlined my five leadership principles that are preeminent in the 314th Airlift Wing's perspective: mission--standards--partnerships--innovation--focus.

Today's focus is the mission--one that we as Airmen take personally. We "own" our mission.

Let's be frank. That's a nice sound-bite, and easy enough to digest, but what am I really talking about? What do we mean by the mission? And how do you own it?

To answer these questions, I will invoke some of the best advice I've ever received. Interestingly, it was back in 1986 when I was a third class (sophomore) cadet at the Air Force Academy, and just beginning my career. The Commander in Chief of Strategic Air Command, General John T. Chain, spoke to the Cadet Wing, and as usual, he took questions at the end. The first was a real softball, but his answer was anything but that. A cadet asked him what his single best advice was for someone beginning his or her career in the Air Force. General Chain actually had three pieces of advice: "Know and do your job; know and do your job; know and do your job."

I will never forget that advice. Mission has to be "Theme No. 1" in our professional lives. Colonel Mike Bauer, the 314th Operations Group Commander discussed this just last week in his commentary. And let me tell you, his perspective is spot-on. Take the time to re-read it.

In a very practical sense, I am asking each of us to truly own our mission and see it as a personal reflection, and therefore something we want to do well. But what else can we do toward this end?

Thoroughly understanding how your individual mission contributes to the larger unit and Air Force missions is a good first step. General Norton A. Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, reminds us that every position counts. There is no "slop" capacity or unnecessary positions. For the 314th, every person has a direct linkage to our mission of "training the world's best C-130 and C-21 Combat Airlifters to fly, fight, and win!" I would expect us all to be able to explain our individual linkages.

Second, every individual needs to know in detail the professional guidance associated with his or her role, and to ensure compliance. Make it a priority to be known as an "expert" in your career field -- be so good that you are sought out. When I was a co-pilot, my goal was to be asked by one of the squadron's senior aircraft commanders to be her or his co-pilot for their next annual checkride. That meant I needed to be good not only in the airplane, but also in the books and technical guidance. It meant I had to be respected by all the crew positions in a C-130. And this leads to my third piece of advice: figure out the parallel mission-related goal in your own career, and chase down that personal marker.

There is a lot of additional advice out there, and I encourage you to search it out. Again, mission is "Theme No. 1." Next up is the standards principle, and we'll discuss this next month.