Commentary — Teamwork: It’s all about you

Maj. Michael Kersten
86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron Director of Operations

Every speech I’ve heard regarding “teamwork” usually includes the phrase “there’s no ‘I’ in team” or something to that effect. Its true there is no “I” in team; however, teamwork starts with you. The mission can’t get accomplished if you don’t complete your training. Your team can’t succeed unless you are dedicated to the goal. It takes YOU to make a team succeed. To be a successful team player, you need to focus on and adopt the unit’s mission. You have to understand each teammate’s role in the mission. The Air Force is not a single team effort; therefore, you must learn how to cooperate and work with other teams.
As the Director of Operations for the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, it’s my job to ensure our teams are prepared and ready to go at a moment’s notice to save lives. An AE crew is constructed of flight nurses and medical technicians. Each member has a very individualized role during a mission. If any of them fail in their personal roles, it affects the entire mission. It’s vital to understand each member’s role in the mission. This allows you to rely on each other’s strengths and to support each other’s weaknesses. If you don’t do your training, if you don’t pay attention to the details, if you don’t do your part for the team, then the team will fail.
Football teams are a great example of this. If the center doesn’t make a clean snap to the quarterback, the play fails. If the linemen don’t make their blocks, the play fails, if the quarter- back doesn’t make a good throw, the play fails. You are the key to making the team successful. Not only do you need to know your teammates’ roles, but you need to understand how other teams work to support your team’s mission.
Our motto is “Always Ready.” The only way we can always be ready is if each member is focused on the unit’s mission and owns it as their mission. “Service Before Self” is a belief that you belong to something bigger than yourself. It’s not simply going through the motions of showing up to a J-O-B to earn a paycheck. Our wounded heroes deserve, and our country expects us to provide, the best medical care possible. If each of our team members doesn’t have the passion and desire to always be ready, then lives can be affected, if not lost.
An AE mission can’t succeed unless there is constant communication between numerous agencies. The medical unit that has the wounded soldier has to input information to notify the system of the movement requirement. The Theater Patient Movement Requirements Center has to verify the requirement and re-lay that to the Air Operations Center. The Air Operations Center has to find an aircraft, build the mission and notify the AES. The AES has to coordinate ground support with several base units. These are just a few of the multiple agencies a simple AE mission relies on to make a mission successful.
It is individuals that make this process work. You have to understand how you fit into the big picture and do your best to make the other units successful by completing your tasks with excellence and zeal. This applies to whatever career field you are in. No matter how insignificant you think your role is, it is part of something bigger and is vital to mission accomplishment. Only you can make the team succeed. The Air Force will triumph if you believe in their goals and mission.
Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, addressed the 134th National Guard Association of the United States General Council in 2012 and said, “I have trouble seeing lines between components of services, because I believe on the air side we have an Air Force—it has three components, but we all are working together, we have to or we can’t be successful.”
The Department of Defense relies on all the branches of service as well as the active and Reserve components to accomplish the national military strategy. The Air Force relies on United States Air Forces in Europe to meet United States European Command’s theater requirements. USAFE calls on the 86th Airlift Wing to provide combat airlift and to operate the Air Force’s premier installation to enable and assure strategic capabilities. The 86th AW needs its Civil Engineer Group, Logistics Readiness Group, Medical Group, Mission Support Group, Maintenance Group and Operations Group to get the mission done. The group commanders rely on the squadron commanders. Finally, the DOD mission falls to you. The Air Force team is relying on you to own your job. Do it the best you can, every time, no matter the circumstances. Do all things with excellence and passion and know that “YOU” are what makes the Air Force the best in the world.