24th Special Operations Wing turns one

  • Published
  • By Rachel Arroyo
  • Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs
The first Air Force wing devoted to special tactics celebrated its one-year mark June 12.

Members of the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fla., commemorated the occasion by focusing on the cornerstone of organizational success - what constitutes good leadership and how to cultivate it on and off the job.

Retired Lt. Gen. Bruce Fister, former commander of Air Force Special Operations Command and one of the early champions of developing a global special operations forces presence, led a professional development and leadership session for 24 SOW Airmen.

Fister focused on the idea of servant leadership.

Instead of viewing oneself at the top of a pyramid where work and feedback is always pushed down to subordinates, leaders should place themselves at the base where they solicit feedback from their subordinates and work to enable their success.

By demonstrating concern for those they lead, individuals set an example that makes a lasting impression.

On one mission, Fister's C-130 landed in Saudi Arabia for emergency maintenance. The mechanic tasked with repairing the C-130 would be working through the night with no light save for the flashlight he was holding in his mouth, Fister said.

"Could I repair the plane? No way," Fister said. "But, I'll tell you what, I could be there. I don't know anything about changing props, but I can hold the flashlight."

He differentiated between leadership derived from positions of authority and leadership exercised outside the scope of authority. Exercising authority is not the same as exhibiting leadership, he said.

"You all are proven leaders," Fister said. "You have to exercise leadership because you operate in joint environments."

In the joint environment, special tactics Airmen must frequently use their technical expertise and core convictions to influence those with authority to agree to a suggested plan of action.

Ultimately, Fister said the key ingredients to being a good leader are simple - work to protect your core values, guard your organizational culture, act with integrity and accept accountability, and strive to be a servant leader.

As the 24 SOW moves into its second year, wing commander Col. Robert Armfield encouraged his Airmen to make a continuous study of Fister's lessons in leadership.

"It is the simple things that are the true foundation of leadership," Armfield said.

Maj. Edmund Loughran, commander of the Special Tactics Training Squadron, said instructors at the squadron strive to routinely exhibit servant leadership as part of their training mentality.

Students are fully immersed in instruction and mentorship. Battle-tested operators return to pass their guidance and experience on to the next generation.

"I routinely observe a mentality at the schoolhouse from our operators and instructors that says it is no longer about operator qualifications but about qualifying the operators below me."

Capt. J.D. Rulien, a student at the Special Tactics Training Squadron, said he appreciates the fact that his leaders place such emphasis on professional development.

"Special tactics is one of the few communities that puts this type of investment in its leaders," Rulien said. "It is not often that you see the wing commander at a professional development session taking notes. It sets a great precedent."

In addition to the professional development session, the 24 SOW began its birthday with memorial pushups to honor and remember their fallen brothers-in-arms.

The youngest Airman at STTS, student trainee Second Lt. Brandon Fix, and the oldest member of the 24 SOW, retired Chief Master Sgt. Wayne Norrad cut a birthday cake marking the occasion.

The 24 SOW is the most highly decorated wing in the USAF since the Vietnam War.