Why Teamwork is a Perpetual Moneymaker--Pass it on!

  • Published
  • By Maj. Melanie Stewart
  • 28th Mission Support Group commander
It was a teaching moment I'll never forget - a former commander of mine shared
what he considered the most important factor in measuring the success of his squadron commanders: Does the officer play well with others?

I assumed "playing well with others," or "teamwork," wouldn't even make a
commanders top 10 list when weighing factors like strong duty and deployment history,
leadership experience, in-residence Professional Military Education, speaking ability,
command presence and others. However, after having been in command for about nine
months, I'm a convert to my former commander's way of thinking.

Most people will acknowledge that teamwork within a squadron can make a big
difference in mission accomplishment, quality of life and morale. I know within the
mission support squadron we have managed to team together to initiate a self-help project to improve our deployment counseling room, clear out the seriously cluttered basement of Rushmore Center, use our sister flight's extra furniture to improve customer waiting areas, buy important technology items to improve efficiencies, and the list goes on and on. None of those things would have happened if my flight commanders hadn't played well with others. Ellsworth, as a whole, also has some amazing examples of teamwork that get huge quality-of-life projects done and address family morale and welfare concerns before they become catastrophic problems. One awesome team-based program is "The Golden Hammer Challenge," where units and professional groups across the base volunteer to sponsor a project to improve the Airman Leadership School facility and quality of life for senior airmen attending rigorous supervisory training. Another equally notable program is the Key Spouse network, where volunteers provide information and moral support to help families cope during deployments. These programs pay forward dividends that perpetuate excellence and caring throughout the wing.

However, I don't think teamwork is always on people's minds when we deal with
mundane manning or funding issues. I find myself in meetings asking the question,
"Why can't we team up more and resolve longstanding base challenges with long-term
fixes? Why do we shy away from acting in the wing's best interest versus our own unit's

I would offer that a loss in the short term for a squadron is sometimes a long-term
win for the wing if cost/benefit or some other analysis method shows it's more valuable
in meeting the wing's needs.

Last year, while studying at the Air Force Institute of Technology, I learned about operations analysis and how it can be applied to solving problems. Now that I've
backed away from the calculus and statistical analysis specifics, I've realized that it's
really about finding the best way to combine limited assets while meeting the decision
maker's ultimate goal. That sounds easy to do, but the real challenge is figuring out how to break down natural barriers that naturally exist between units who have competing
priorities. When commanders, senior civilians or enlisted leaders stand in the way of
progress that might cause them inconvenience or act solely in their own unit's interests,
they miss the big picture and the base suffers.

We, as an Air Force, continue to turn in resources to recapitalize the aircraft fleet
while augmenting an over-tasked Army in the Global War on Terror. These short-term
sacrifices and long-term, sweeping changes in the way we do business to enable a leaner force are what teamwork is all about. As commanders, we have to find a balance to enable progress and still take care of our mission and people. We can be proud
that our teamwork, even if painful in the short term, will produce a more well-rounded
and capable force in the future.