People: Our most valuable asset

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Dwayne E. Thomas
  • 718th Civil Engineer Squadron

As the commander of an Air Force squadron, or a leader at any echelon in the world's best air, space and cyberspace force, it is imperative that we understand the mission from the wing down to the lowest levels and most importantly, we must know our people.
Recent articles in the "Kadena Shogun" have discussed the importance of the mission. My focus will be on the importance of getting to know the people that work for us.
One of the best ways to get to know the people that perform the mission is to walk around your organization. In the 1980s and 1990s, the term "Management by Walking Around" was extremely popular in corporate America. I argue that this principle is still relevant and applicable today -- I like to refer to it as "Leadership by Walking Around."
Leaders must make a conscious effort to come from behind the desk filled with endless e-mails and staff packages and walk around their organizations. By doing this, they get to know the people who take care of the mission.
Using the aforementioned idea as a backdrop, allow me to share a recent experience I had as I walked through my squadron. Two weeks ago, walking through one of my work centers, I stumbled across a slice of history. I encountered Mr. Haruo T. Kubota, an employee who was a member of the famed World War II 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team.
As you may remember, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. This act thrusted the United States into World War II. All men eligible for military duty were called upon to fight -- except Japanese Americans who were categorized as non-draftable. Moreover, they and their families were placed in internment camps by the United States government.
On Feb. 1, 1943, the government, under President Roosevelt's leadership, reversed its decision on Japanese Americans serving in the armed forces and announced the formation of the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team.
Mr. Kubota answered the call to service by immediately enlisting in the United States Army. He was assigned to the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion in the headquarters battery. He worked as a telephone technician for artillery batteries, a forward observer and rifleman. Over the course of his active-duty commitment, he served in Italy, France and Germany. He's been a member of the 718th Civil Engineer Squadron for the last 31 years. He's a supervisor in the appliance repair shop and has been a civil servant for 63 years.
Mr. Kubota is living history and I would have never met him if I hadn't taken the time out of my very full schedule to walk around my organization. Obviously, people are what make our organizations tick -- they are the most important part of any squadron.
As leaders we must take care of our people to enable them to take care of the mission. People are truly our most valuable asset.