Changing role of an Air Force leader

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Sabina C. Garrett
  • 71st Medical Support Squadron commander
Our charge forward to fight an active insurgency continues in Afghanistan. Air Force members fill a critical role in both the combat service support and brigade support team by linking U.S. and coalition forces with the Afghan national support forces through the embedded training team mission. 

In lieu of taskings require that we share our knowledge, leadership, technical abilities, and a basic common sense approach through advisement and mentoring of the Afghan forces. The ultimate goal is to wean their forces from our support, assisting them in becoming independent. 

When I was deployed for 365 days as an embedded training team member, I grew as an individual and leader every single day. I found it critical to employ "sound rules of practice" in every Afghan national forces encounter, in hopes of making a difference in both operations and the minds of those willing to learn. 

When you have the opportunity to deploy to Afghanistan, the following rules of practice for embedded team members will prove helpful: 

· Always set the example, remain constant and have strict adherence to our Air Force leadership, principles, traits and core values. 

· There is only one key to success -- building relationships with your counterpart. If they are to learn from you they must first trust you. 

· Sell success at every opportunity. Praise in public and be patient. The Afghan culture responds to positive reinforcements. 

· If you always solve their problems, they will let you. Don't create dependency. This isn't the best path to long term success. 

· Teach by doing it with them. Keep it simple and build a new frame of reference. 

· Spend time with your translator/linguist. They can be your single point of success or failure. 

· When it sounds strange, ask questions. Take nothing for granted. Validate your assumptions. 

· Remember, the training team is only a bridge to somewhere else. The mission is transition. 

As a leader, you will be faced with unique challenges each day including and beyond your training team role. You may be asked to participate in unconventional type conflicts, humanitarian operations or nation-building activities. 

You will indeed gain a true understanding of counter insurgency operations as the Afghan's learn and apply these concepts. I urge you to accept these challenges and lead the way. Your overall experience will provide a greater appreciation for humanity and most importantly, give you a long lasting sense of pride as an American military warrior.