It’s All About Loyalty

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Andre Briere
  • 349th Air Refueling Squadron commander
Other commanders have written eloquently in this space about many different aspects of the wing vision (Superior Warfighter Support!), mission, and priorities (Ready Mobility/Ready Airmen & Families/Ready Base). I've learned something from every one of them. In the 349th Air Refueling Squadron, we're aviators; so we try to keep things simple and personal. With that said, I am going to talk about what I think is the distilled essence of our wing vision, mission, and priorities--Loyalty.

So what is loyalty and how do we spot and/or cultivate it in here at McConnell? We all know what loyalty means when it comes to our marriages, families and faith. But how does it relate to our wing vision, mission and priorities? My proposition is that every key point in those statements boils down to loyalty...whether to yourself, to your colleagues, to your supervisors, to your subordinates, or to our military families.

Loyalty is an unspoken bond between each of us as we strive toward our common wing goals. What is "Superior Warfighter Support," if not loyalty to our mission and to our warfighters? What is "Ready Airmen," if not loyalty to ourselves and to the expectation that we must be ready to deploy at a moment's notice? But this is more than a semantics exercise! Reducing these well-defined statements to their common denominator gives us focus, and makes tough concepts understandable and personal.

Loyalty goes farther than a willingness to fly combat missions in and out of the AOR, or do what you are told on the flightline or in your place of work. It is personal. It is a vow to your fellow Airmen that you will do your part both at home and abroad to accomplish the task at hand. To do this, we must act in unison with a common direction. Accomplishing our incredibly complex and demanding mission requires an in-depth understanding of the mission, and a sense of leadership, followership, loyalty, and pride-- all of which members of the 349th ARS demonstrate each and every day.

Ready Airmen and Families

Being "ready" is more than accomplishing the required ancillary training, passing your physical fitness test, and accomplishing your deployment checklist. It is a comprehensive loyalty to your comrades and team. If you are not "ready," the team suffers!

Over the past year we in the 349th ARS have faced medical hardships, countless days deployed, and incredibly high turnover rates. Despite these difficulties, my squadron continues to amaze me. They find time not only for each other but also for the community.

Just recently the 349thspearheaded McConnell AFB's "Big for a Day." The event was a huge success and showcased numerous base organizations to underprivileged youth from the Wichita area. We also recently sponsored "Bandit Scholarships" to help children in our local community afford school supplies. I am constantly humbled by the sacrifice and dedication of our Airmen. They regularly go beyond simply being "ready airmen"--they make Wichita a "ready community" that is willing and able to support our families while we are at home or deployed.

The Bandits are more engaged and busy than ever, but that involvement does not stop with the squadron members. Our spouses are also energized and motivated. From welcome committees, to key spouse duties, to monthly socials, to emergency support--our Bandit spouses are the key to squadron morale and "ready families." They are the unsung heroes keeping our households together as we carry out the mission. Being loyal to ourselves and to our families is the key to making "ready airmen and families" a reality.

Ready Base

In addition to the numerous events and volunteer opportunities that Bandits lead in the community, the 349th ARS is proud of its record as one of the top "green" organizations on McConnell AFB. From demonstrated energy conservation in our squadron building, to the "Green Machine" (our weekly cleaning team), to fuel conservation in the air--we have tackled conservation and wise environmental stewardship head on.

The Bandits are interested in saving energy and "green" initiatives for reasons other than simply helping "save the Earth." Every dollar spent paying an energy bill is a dollar not spent on the mission. Every dollar wasted in lack of fuel efficiency is less we have to recapitalize the fleet.

How we create energy and use it has a major impact on the sustainability of our war-fighting readiness. We need to continue looking for ways to conserve and innovate. It is our fiscal responsibility and a key way we demonstrate loyalty to the Wing, the Air Force, and the taxpayers who foot our bills.

Ready Mobility

Over the past year, 95 percent of our Bandit Airmen have deployed at least once. At any given time, approximately 70 percent of our squadron is deployed or TDY--with the remaining 30 percent doing their part to ensure we are always ready at home. It is our job to be prepared and ensure we can execute the mission at a moment's notice.

While recent drawdowns have reduced career field manning across the Air Force, our people have stepped up to the plate and guaranteed we continue to function at the highest level. The men and women of the 349th ARS are continually tested and show they are up to the challenge. They regularly fill short notice taskings, participate in joint and Air Force exercises, and fly short-notice missions without hesitation.

As the 349th ARS commander, I could not be happier and more proud of how my people react to such a dynamic environment. Their sense of purpose fuels their motivation and desire to succeed, but it is loyalty to the mission and to each other (from the top down, and the bottom up) that enables the Bandits to answer the call.

The motto on my commander's coin is simple, but I think it captures what the 349th ARS Bandits and McConnell AFB are all about--it says Virtus. For those of you who didn't take Latin in school, the basic meaning of that word is virtue. But in common Latin usage "virtus" has another meaning; because it was considered the paramount virtue--the root of all other virtues--virtus also means...loyalty.