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18th Wing Commander: Don’t drop the crystal ball

KADENA AB, Japan -- I recently attended a briefing given by the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, General Kevin Chilton, where he discussed the recent nuclear incidents. He compared the numerous Air Force missions to a juggler trying to keep balls in the air. He said the Air Force is juggling a lot of balls, but only one of those balls is crystal. The crystal ball is the nuclear mission and we cannot afford to drop that ball--we almost dropped the crystal ball. 

Accountability for nearly dropping the ball was assessed at the most senior level when Secretary Wynne and General Moseley accepted responsibility for our failures. I say "our" failures because all of us should feel a sense of responsibility and embarrassment for the performance of the Airmen who directly contributed to these incidents. It is likely that every Airman involved was trained and resourced to do the job and at some point they failed to meet the standards of excellence we expect in our Air Force. We should all feel a sense of accountability and use this as a wake-up call to examine our own compliance with standards as we juggle the balls here on Kadena. 

Now is the time for us to reinforce the critical tenets of leadership so that we keep the balls in the air. We must lead and mentor, realizing that we are always training leaders to take our place and most of that training is accomplished through the example we set on a daily basis. 

Shogun leaders must continue to define objectives, connect Airmen to the mission, enforce standards, communicate up and down the chain--face-to-face, and live and teach the core values. We must assign and accept accountability. Most of the time, we hold our Airmen accountable for doing great work. But on that rare occasion when a trained Airman fails to meet our Air Force standards, we will assign accountability. At the same time, leaders in the chain of command will also accept responsibility. The resignation of our senior leaders was the ultimate example of accepting responsibility for the failures of subordinates. 

As we welcome our new SECAF and CSAF, we are aware that this is the latest in a series of changes that include personnel consolidation, PBD 720 cuts and Ops-Maintenance reorganization. What has not changed is our responsibility to execute the mission of the Air Force, PACAF, 5th Air Force and the 18th Wing. Where we can, we will "freeze the stick" and focus on the basics. Leaders at all levels will take a hard look at themselves and their subordinates. Don't be lulled into thinking "it can't happen here." 

Set the bar high--limited resources are not an excuse for substandard performance. Our Air Force will come through this difficult period stronger than ever, but it will take the commitment of every Airman. I am confident that Shogun Warriors, Trained and Ready, will lead the way.