Never too young to lead

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Ben Jonnson
  • 384th Air Refueling Squadron commander
We often hear it said that commanders and supervisors should lead by example.

We look to them to set the tone, blaze the trail, and to be a model for the unit. Sometimes, however, the tables are turned.

Some of our youngest Airmen are setting the best examples here in the 384th Air Refueling Squadron. Undoubtedly, this is true in units throughout McConnell AFB.

As supervisors and mentors, we should encourage our people not just to follow a supreme example, but to be the supreme example.

One of the greatest mentors of all time, the Apostle Paul, exhorted his mentee Timothy, "Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example ... in your speech, your conduct, your love, faith, and purity" (I Timothy 4:12.) These words are as relevant for us today as they were 2,000 years ago.

In my first few weeks of command of the 384th "Squarepatchers," I have been inspired by the dedication and professionalism of our young Airmen, from Airman first class boom operators and aviation resource managers to lieutenant copilots and navigators.

For young Airmen who believe that their personal example does not have a big impact on the unit, I challenge you to consider the case of our recent spotlight performer, Senior Airman James Michel.

Not only is he an outstanding boom operator, personally refueling multi-billion dollar aircraft at 300 miles per hour and 25,000 feet in the air, but his dedication to improving his fitness became the talk of the squadron. The stats are worth repeating: he lost 4.5 inches off of his waist, cut his run time by nearly a minute and a half and improved his overall score from a 81.2 to 93.8! What an awesome example for us all!

While commanders and supervisors should set the example, sometimes the most inspiring and culture-changing examples come from below. Like the Apostle Paul, we as mentors should encourage our people to be the example, inspiring others with their speech, conduct, and lives, just like young Senior Airman Michel. SquarePatch Pride!

Editor's note: Senior Airman James Michel was selected to be the spotlight performer for the week of June 17 to 22. Read his story here.