Meet the Commander – Leader places focus on people

Staff Sgt. M. Davis
Kaiserslautern American editor

***image1***The people in an organization are what make or break the mission — that’s why Col. Melinda Edwards places people atop her long list of priorities as the commander of the 435th Logistics Readiness Group.
“My philosophy has always been — if you really care about and support your people, they will move mountains for you,” said the commander.
The 435th LRG has been moving more than just mountains under the steady hand of this 23-year career logistics officer.
“It’s amazing how much this group has accomplished with such limited resources. Regardless of diminishing quality of life, tools, equipment or even inadequate manpower, the men and women of my group continue to perform day-in and day-out. Time after time, they pull together to get things done.”
Similarly, she has also overcome diversity and continued to perform. Just three weeks after the group stood up on Sept. 27, 2002, group members were involved in a massive ammunition move. The commander said she was amazed with her people’s heart and dedication from day one as she witnessed the transporters build hundreds of crates and manage thousands of documents for this high-visibility munitions movement. After settling in as the organization’s commander, Colonel Edwards saw yet another example of the group pulling together to make the missions happen during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“The group was tasked with (24/seven), around the clock operations throughout Ramstein and Sembach — to include the Deployment Control Center and the wing battlestaff. Every member of the group — from the supply technician, our War Reserve Materiel team at Sembach, our fuels troops, log planners, vehicle operators, vehicle mechanics, traffic managers and air transporters — they performed an amazing feat … moving more than 27,000 passengers and 28,000 tons of cargo in about eight weeks,” she said. As the only logistics readiness group commander in the Air Force, Colonel Edwards is responsible for the largest transportation and logistics plans units in the Air Force and the largest supply squadron in U.S. Air Forces in Europe. Although she had a large mission to get her arms around, her group put its arms back around her when she was dealt a breast cancer diagnosis in January 2003.

“They knocked themselves out trying to make this mission happen,” Colonel Edwards said. “Although I was here most of the time except when I was getting treatments, I didn’t have to worry at all. I’m lucky to have some of the very best leaders that I’ve ever worked with throughout my career — all right here within this group.”
Her most memorable moment as a commander was when she returned from radiation chemotherapy treatments in the United States to a “welcome home picnic” from hundreds of people within her group.
“It was a complete surprise,” Colonel Edwards said. “When they held up the banner that read ‘Welcome Home Colonel Edwards’ there were no words to express how humbled I felt by this outpouring of support from so many people who had worked so hard this past year.”
Leadership will change this summer, and the commander said, “A major part of me is very sad to move on. I can’t tell you that leaving command is an easy thing — it’s not. But, fresh leadership is needed every few years, which means bringing in new people with a new perspective that can help build upon the foundations already established … it’s the way we keep our Air Force strong … and the best in the world.