Get REAL

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- During his weekly teleconference, General C. Robert Kehler, commander of Air Force Space Command, asked his wing commanders to focus on leadership during their commander's calls. He felt Airmen need to emphasize leadership more and hold each other accountable for instilling leadership.

I've heard the term "leadership" throughout my career and have been taught what it means to be a leader. But this was the first time I can recall where Airmen have been asked to focus on leadership and seek out leadership opportunities. So with the General's direction in hand, I set out to find Random Exceptional Acts of Leadership, or REAL, around the wing and I found the following.

On Wednesday morning, our squadron formed up at the Fitness Center for our weekly physical training session. It was a typical Aurora, Colo., autumn day, about 25 degrees, crystal-blue skies with about a 20-mile-per-hour wind, so we decided to train inside the gym.

After the squadron went through warm-up and stretching routines, we went upstairs to run on the indoor track. As fate would have it, I was about to encounter my first REAL. Col. Charlotte Wilson, the 460th Space Wing vice commander and other members of the staff were on the track performing their 1.5-mile run as part of their annual fitness test.

Our squadron could use the indoor track, but we had to avoid the outside lanes to allow those testing to run unimpeded.

As I started around the track I took note of Colonel Wilson ticking off her laps. The first thing I noticed was how fast she was going and how hard she was working. Here was the vice commander running laps, huffing and puffing, giving her all and it wasn't even 8 a.m.
Of course I was impressed, because I've never seen REAL up close and personal before.

As Colonel Wilson neared the finish line, the physical training leader encouraged her to pick up the pace if she wanted to break the 13-minute mark. With the PTL's encouragement ringing in the fitness center air, Colonel Wilson gritted her teeth, exhaled forcefully and started to sprint toward the finish line. As she crossed the finish line, the PTL announced her time -- 12:59. Wow, what an effort.

I wondered if anyone else noticed Colonel Wilson getting REAL? She didn't get any extra points for breaking the 13-minute mark, but the vice commander understood that the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little "extra" -- that's why she gave her all and got REAL. I'm certain General Kehler would have been proud if he was at the fitness center Wednesday morning and witnessed what I did.

Later in the day, I attended the 460th SW Commander's Call at the Leadership Development Center, determined to find others in the wing getting REAL.

At the call, Col. Wayne McGee, the 460th SW commander, invited several guest speakers to brief the community on leadership and stated, "We are a leadership factory. That's what we do."

One of the guest speakers, Chief Master Sgt. Greg Williams, superintendent of the 460th Mission Support Group, nailed Colonel McGee's point home when he stated, "Chief don't need slides."

I'll say that again. Amid all the briefers and their nifty slide shows and videos, here was Chief Williams getting REAL. "Chief don't need slides" is as straightforward as any example of getting REAL. With this one simple sentence, Chief Williams got REAL.

Everyone in attendance immediately, instantaneously understood what the Chief meant. You see, chief master sergeants are the pinnacle of the enlisted force and only one percent of Air Force enlisted members hold this prestigious rank. So when Chief Williams said, "Chief don't need slides," he understood that to get REAL meant he had to strip away the fancy adjectives and nouns and lead by example.

Getting REAL measures leaders by the content of their character and their everyday actions, not the content of a slide show or fancy distractions. Chief Williams got REAL and I'm sure General Kehler would have been proud if he had been at the LDC.

I could go on and on about how proud I am to serve my country and how proud I am to serve with each and every Airman stationed here at Buckley Air Force Base but I must wrap this up so I can find others getting REAL. However, before I go I'll leave you with one final thought, "Isn't it time you started to get REAL?"