Risk management, professional conduct important for staying the best

  • Published
  • By Col. Christopher Thelen
  • 71st Mission Support Group commander
Growing up as an Air Force "brat" I prayed daily to be an Air Force architect (and, of course, a pilot and stunt driver) with dreams of one day becoming a group commander "just like Jenny's dad." But command was not, as I first thought, about getting to live in a "big" house with a flag in front. By the time I joined ROTC, my eyes were wide open to the responsibilities those dreams carried with them, and I entered the Air Force with a mature realization-- we should not seek command for our own sake, but for the opportunities command gives us to more fully serve our nation, and to help our fellow Airmen in their lives and careers.

It's therefore been a great privilege to serve as the 71st Mission Support Group commander over the past two years. I'm extremely honored to have been a part of Team Vance and to have made a small contribution to the terrific work you've accomplished. You've deployed and served brilliantly in our nation's defense, and rightly earned rankings as the Air Force's premier pilot training force...and being best is a pretty good thing. Within the Mission Support Group, you pushed rapid facility, infrastructure, security and community improvements, then led the way in a myriad of changes that will transform the way we provide service. Your adage was consistently "someone has to be the first to do it, so why not us?"... and as often as not you were. That took guts and leadership from every person on the team, and my hat's off to you. Our contractor force has been in lock-step with us every step of the way, as have our Enid hosts. Team Vance is simply the best!

But how do we stay the best? One way is to instill the importance of risk management and professional conduct in every team member's life. This wasn't always a popular message, but it's one that needs to be heard...again and again. Nearly every day, we hear new accounts of someone losing their career...or life...due to one poor decision. As we learned with the Tailhook, Academy assault and Abu Ghraib scandals, it only takes a brief lapse in judgment to put an entire winning team (or even the nation) on the ropes. Therefore, every member of Team Vance... military, contractor or civilian...needs to keep their eyes open, and brain fully engaged, to maintain your "Top Dog" standing. If your wingman is veering off-course, pull them back in. Our nation is counting on each of you and I know that trust is in good hands.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this great team. I hope I've truly used this command opportunity for the right purpose: to better serve our nation and fellow Airmen. Please continue to take care of the mission and each other always...good luck, and may God bless you all.