Commentary by Lt. Col. Kevin Williams
50th Civil Engineer Squadron commander
My two years in command is nearing its end. I’m starting to think about what I need to do to get things ready for the new guy. I’m also reflecting on all the good work the 50th Civil Engineer Squadron has done for Schriever despite being undermanned in many key areas. Several quality of life and infrastructure projects currently under construction will finish prior to my departure, and it gives me a great sense of accomplishment. One question I’m asking myself though is, “What have I learned?”
Many times during the past 18 months I jumped to conclusions without getting the rest of the story. I remember a situation in which another organization alleged that my engineers did not submit documentation as discussed and determined in a meeting. Instead of presenting the allegation to my engineers to get their side of the story, I assumed that the allegation was correct and jumped on my engineers for not providing the information. Turns out my engineers did submit the information and there was just a miscommunication. I’ve learned to not jump to conclusions and listen to all sides of the story before making a decision. In doing so, I support my engineers and put myself in a position to make better judgments.
I’ve had to fight my ego at times, believing that I should know everything and shouldn’t have to consult my folks, even in small matters. Granted some decisions you have to make and should be able to make as a commander without a lot of information. In most situations however, you have plenty of time to get the answer and get it right the first time. I’ve learned to resist the temptation to provide a quick answer that is not fully thought out and take the time to ask questions of my folks who have been there and done that.
The last thing I learned is to make a decision. At times, while trying to think through all the issues to make the right decision, I have taken too much time. Although this line of thinking has often worked well to provide a thorough assessment, certain situations may call for a prompt decision to maintain good order and discipline. I’ve learned that if there are members in your squadron dealing with situations — whether big or small, military or personal, you need to ensure you have all the information in order to make a decision that will be best for both the Air Force and your personnel.
My experience as a commander has been great. I’ve learned a lot about myself and have grown as an officer. I can confidently say that getting the rest of the story, consulting with my folks on decisions no matter how small and making prompt, well thought out decisions will help me in the future, especially if I get the opportunity to command again.