When I took command my first platoon in 2003, my unit commander, LtCol C., having just returned from the Invasion of Iraq (OIF I), sat me down in his office and told me the most difficult part of command: Setting an effective Command Climate.
What is Command Climate? I don’t think it’s really definable, but suffice to say that it’s the force that a commander exudes that causes his charges to make a particular decision without specific guidance. For a platoon commander, this force impacts the Marine’s efforts at basic things like equipment maintenance, physical training, making safe decisions when off duty, etc. These aren’t usually life-or-death decisions, but when added together, they have a great effect on discipline, morale, health, and effectiveness of a unit. Command Climate is the thing that guides a Marine when he has to make a decision, and the pluses and minuses of that decision cancel each other out, leading the Marine to think, “Damn it, Cpl X, or Sgt Y, or MSgt Z, or Lt. SE would want me to do this, so I’m going to do it.” Simply put, Command Climate is a sort of peer pressure that’s exerted on a unit by the Commander.
Command Climate can be positive or negative. While it is a truism that the bottom 25% of any group will take up 75% of a leader’s time, it also seems to be true that 75% of the problems in a group of units seem to come from only 25% of those units. Strong leaders create Command Climates that solve and mitigate problems. Poor leaders create Command Climates that create and worsen problems. And so it appears to be so with the US Air Force.
Today, the Washington Post reported:
“The Air Force’s top leadership sought for three years to spend counterterrorism funds on “comfort capsules” to be installed on military planes that ferry senior officers and civilian leaders around the world, with at least four top generals involved in design details such as the color of the capsules’ carpet and leather chairs, according to internal e-mails and budget documents.”