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NEWS | Sept. 22, 2015

What are you going to do?

By Maj. Jason Okumura, commander 437th Aerial Port Squadron

What are you going to do?  It's a simple question but, in any scenario, it challenges your thought processes and perspective.  As a 21 year old Second Lieutenant, I walked into my Squadron Commander's office to brief her on a disciplinary issue in my flight.  After a three minute description of the events I paused, waiting on a solution from the commander.  She looked back at me and replied, "Thanks, now what are you going to do?"  Her understated lesson was straightforward and profound for a young officer, "Be a leader, think through problems, do your research and have a plan of action."  This message still resonates with me and drives my perspective on leadership. 

Leadership is not about rank or position, it's a mindset.  Leaders understand themselves and the environment around them.  They embrace their role and work to affect change, often through the motivation of others.  Leaders challenge themselves to understand more than the information presented in front of them and consistently pose the question, "What am I going to do?"  This is the question you should ask yourself every day.  Our supervisors, peers and subordinates are challenged with tough circumstances daily. When faced with the same situations, instead of merely saying, "This sucks," put yourself in their shoes and ask, "What am I going to do?" Notice, I said "when" not "if" you're faced with the same challenges.  Again, it's a distinction in mindset.  Forcing yourself to take an active position on something that's inevitable is much different than the approach taken on something that can be dismissed through percentages.  For example, how many people have an emergency kit in their car?  The truth is less than 20 percent have even the most basic emergency supplies in their vehicles.  This is primarily because they believe the percentages are in their favor and they won't need the kit.  What if I told you that there was a 100 percent chance that you would need an emergency kit in the next month?  The obvious response is you would be prepared for that occasion. 

The adage "hindsight is 20/20" highlights the fact that any situation can be picked apart and criticized after the entire situation plays out.  In many cases, the point of failure is clear and alternate actions are obvious.  As you ask yourself, "What am I going to do?" Follow that line of questioning to understand why the correct answer wasn't apparent at the time.  Take the time to research and problem solve in order to get a more complete understanding of issues.  This will help you see alternate perspectives and provide more comprehensive solutions.

The next time you're in Sexual Assault Prevention and Response training or Resiliency Training and you find yourself missing the point, ask yourself, "What am I going to do when someone needs me in the most critical time?"  The most basic answer should be, "Be prepared to tackle difficult situations." Take an active approach to your leadership development and use resources and situations around you to create an executable plan of action for use when crises arise. 

Avoid thinking that tough situations are rare and, by percentage, unlikely. Spend time, energy and resources preparing for them.  I challenge every Airman to be a leader, embrace your role as a team-member, supervisor, Wingman and be ready when you're needed the most.