Command Climate in the Air Force

July 19, 2008

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.”

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Friday War Picture (Updated)

July 18, 2008

Members of the Czechoslovak Legion in Vladivostok, 1918.

Update:  Check this out! (courtesy SWJ)


Doing as the Essence of Strategy (Updated)

July 18, 2008

Danger Room has a piece on Soft Power that’s worth reading.  It’s not terribly revelatory, but does make a necessary point:  A mere increase in Soft Power assets and capabilities does not amount to a strategy.

The Secretart of Defense, Robert Gates, recently said:

“We must focus our energies beyond the guns and steel of the military,” Gates said in his speech at Kansas State University last year. “There is a need for a dramatic increase in spending on civilian instruments of national security — diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action, and economic reconstruction and development.”

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May I see your ID please?

July 17, 2008

Today, after I completed my workout at the gym, I went to the NEX (the Navy’s version of a PX or BX) to buy some jerky and a Gatorade.  I was wearing my cammies at the time, with my rank identifying me as a Marine Captain.  Walking through the check-out line, the clerk at the register asked me to produce my military ID to prove that I was a member of the military.

I, of course, produced it.  But why the heck does she need to see it?  Does she think that I bought my cammies and boots (worth about $140) just so I can buy Gatorade at the NEX?  Are my military uniform, military haircut, military appearance, and military bearing insufficient to prove that I’m probably a member of the military, and consequently deserve the privilege to purchase some Gatorade and jerky at a NEX?

I understand the requirements for proper identification in certain places.  I understand why the TSA might be interested in my identity when I travel.  I understand that if I make a moving violation in my car, the law enforcement officer might want to know who I am.  I understand that the Navy’s security guards who monitor traffic entering naval installations have every right to require that I produce identification.  I even understand why a register clerk at a NEX would want to verify my identity when I am wearing civvies.

However…

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SE’s Reading Program – With Update

July 12, 2008

I have written on the nature of Professionalism.  An element to true Professionalism is the maintenance of a course of independent, continual study.  Here I will speak to my personal reading program, which is a core part of my Professional military education.

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Friday War Picture

July 11, 2008

In late 2005, a USNS Fast Combat Support Ship provides fuel to the USS Nassau (not visible) while transiting the North Atlantic.  Elements of the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit are embarked on the Nassau.  A rainbow can be seen in the distance.  The 22d MEU was traveling to the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility to conduct combat operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

SE took this photo.


The State of Military History: A Retrospective

July 9, 2008

My recent post on the nature of the Professional ethic (with crosspost and seperate discussion here) brings into focus the requirement for a competent and scholarly academy to produce works of military history, as well as theoretical works on the arts and sciences of war.

A series of excellent posts at Chicago Boyz & ZenPundit are worth reviewing.  Where there are crosspostings, ensure you read both posts to get the full discussions.

These were exceedingly illuminating posts, and must thank Lexington Green and ZenPundit for their roles in the dialog.

As an aside, this academy need not be composed of professors, although they are necessary too.  The academy requires the active participation of practitioners–meaning actual officers.

Update:  Hanson wrote a good essay on military history and the academy (h/t to City Journal).  It can be found here.  It is definitely worth a read, too.