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Bringing out the best

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Leaders, from supervisors of one to supervisors of thousands, I ask you this -- How do you bring out the best in a person? In hundreds of people? In thousands of people? How do you get your Airman, the people in your flight, or your entire organization to perform for you? How do you bring out the best in people? It begins with believing there's some best to be brought out. It begins with believing in the potential of that person, that group of people, that organization of people.

Men and women of the 30th Space Wing, what motivates you to do your best? What makes you perform at that next level? What makes you take it to "11?"? There is something internal, I'm sure. But you want to be trusted, respected, and most importantly, believed in.

Gen. George Washington knew this: He knew how to motivate his troops, how to bring out their best. For him, it began with believing in them. It was during the American Revolution, and the scene was muddy, rainy, snowy, and very cold (our weather flight would call it a wintery mix). His Army had not been paid for months and their enlistments were up. They were in dire need of new uniforms, weapons, supplies...and paychecks. Yet they were all he had, and the General had to find a way to get them to reenlist. According to Richard Brookhiser, author of "George Washington on Leadership," Washington spoke to his troops on the battlefield. He said, "My brave fellows. My brave fellows, I ask you to reenlist. My brave fellows, fight." Why was this speech so powerful? Why did it work - why did they reenlist, fight, and go on to win the Revolutionary War? Is it because Washington turned his attention back on his audience? It's because he showed them their responsibility to reenlist and to fight. He showed them their own power. According to Brookhiser, "he gets them to be brave by telling them they are." By believing so passionately in his troops, he was able to reach further and look deeper into them - and bring out their best.

We have modern-day examples of this powerful leadership around our own wing. Col. Barbara Jones, 30th Medical Group commander, brought out the best in the hundreds of men and women of the 30th MDG by providing a grand vision, focusing on compliance, and most importantly -- believing in them. Jones empowered her "anytime, anywhere" Airmen, and they responded in spades: the 30th MDG was recognized as the best clinic in Air Force Space Command!

Col. Jed Davis, 30th Mission Support Group commander, is getting ready to bring out the best in the 30th MSG. In preparation for the Air Force Space Command Inspector General Consolidated Unit Inspection, the MSG has been working hard. I've personally seen Davis in action in the Emergency Operations Center, directing the DoD award-winning Vandenberg Fire Department and the "lock and load" 30th Security Forces Airmen during a base-wide emergency management exercise. He employs all elements of his MSG to run this base, in a contingency situation or not, with 30th Civil Engineer Squadron, 30th Force Support Squadron, and the 30th Logistic Readiness Squadron. Davis believes in his troops. He empowers them by believing in them...and we will soon see them crush this inspection by giving their very best effort and expertise.

Col. Dave Hook, 30th Operations Group commander, and Col. Shahnaz Punjani, 30th Launch Group commander, have the enviable job of ensuring huge, "controlled explosions" propel rockets into space, and Col. Matt Carroll, 30th Space Wing Safety chief, makes sure they do it without hurting anyone. If you think about the thousands of pounds of hazardous material and propellant, the hazardous working environment, and the hundreds of engineering issues they deal with on a monthly basis - it's a no-brainer, they have to trust the expertise of their people...and those leaders empower their people to reach for the stars.

There are countless examples of individuals, and teams of individuals in the 30th SW, who are empowered by knowing that someone believes in them. You see it in your own work place: A noncommissioned officer sees potential in an Airman 1st Class, and gives him one more chance to prove himself. A few months later, that Airman earns a stripe Below The Zone. A major believes in a captain enough to give him more responsibility and a chance to compete for weapons school. A few months later, that captain earns his weapons school patch. A section or flight is given a project or task to solve a complex problem. A few months later, they propel their unit to win an Outstanding Unit Award.

Some of you might have to look a little deeper to bring out the best in your people. It's true. But the deeper you look, the further you reach - just as Washington took the time to do -- the greater the reward you'll find.