Five Things To Focus On As A New Flight Commander (or OIC)

So you find yourself in charge of a new flight and need to find a starting point. How do you provide value when everyone knows you’re only going to be there for a year at best? Not to worry. The following steps will help you focus on what you need to learn in order to be a valuable member of your flight and squadron.

These steps don’t have to be done in the order presented but this order will provide the most context as you conduct your research. This list also works for OICs as well, you’ll just scale down your scope a little to focus on the section(s) you lead.

It’s “customer” and not customer because it’s not like the Maintenance Squadron can shop elsewhere if your flight isn’t meeting their needs. That being said you still need to empathize with those who rely on you and your flight since they can’t shop around. Knowing who your customer is will also let you know who you need to start building relationships with.

There are two types of customers: external and internal. External customers are those organizations outside your squadron who rely on you and your flight to get their job done. For the typical Logistics Readiness Squadron, the Maintenance Squadron will likely be a big customer as they rely on Materiel Management to manage and store parts, the Fuels Flight to deliver fuel to aircraft, and the Deployment and Distribution flight to receive and deliver their parts.

Internal customers are those who rely on you within your own unit in order to get their job done. Knowing who your internal customers are will help you build effective relationships in your unit because they can see you are trying to help them. To paraphrase Neil Gaiman, you want to be good at your job, be on time, and be easy to work with. Following these steps will help with being good at your job, we’ll have future articles to help with the other two in the future.

The next thing you should look into is what information about your flight is being tracked. The best place to start is by reviewing your squadron staff meeting slides. More than likely the squadron is tracking the enlisted performance reports (EPR), decorations, and awards for Airmen assigned to your flight. EPRs go off of the Static Closeout Date or SCOD now and it easier to track since you’ll know well ahead of time when they are due. Tracking decorations can be more difficult as they are normally tied to someone’s departure from the unit. Units will have quarterly and annual awards that routinely come up well quarterly and annually. We’ll cover how to write these in a future article but make sure you know when these things are due as they are vital for your Airmen’s careers.

The staff meeting is also where leadership will show the status of taskers assigned to your flight via the Task Management Tool (TMT). A common frustration for units are last-minute taskers. This complaint is warranted in most cases but if you start nailing down these steps you and your flight will be ready to flex when needed.

Now that you know who your “customer” is and what information is tracked about you and your team you can start reviewing the regulations to see where things can be improved. Start with AFI 1–2, Commander’s Responsibilities. Why read something for a squadron commander? The title says Commander’s Responsibilities and you’re a flight commander so you can adjust the reg to your level at the flight. Another reason you should start here is that it provides an excellent roadmap/checklist. Furthermore, it outlines what the squadron CC is responsible for. Gen Goldfein wants to revitalize the squadron so understanding what the squadron commander has going on can help you provide more value to them.

You need to learn what each member of your flight does so you know who to ask and when.

Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

Logistics Readiness Officer have two competencies and six proficiencies. That’s a lot of specialties to cover so your commander is going to move you every six months to a year. In this time frame you can only realistically focus on improving or implementing one or two high-value changes.

Remember that knowing isn’t the same as doing. Yes, you’ll have to attend staff meetings, ops meetings, production meetings, commander’s calls, but you should make these steps a priority. Schedule time on your calendar and keep it as an appointment with yourself. Saying no to the commander can be tricky so use your best judgment. If you explain why you can’t do something so that you can improve something could make a “no, sir/ma’am” a lot more reasonable.

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