Warhawk Spotlight: Air War College students share leadership experiences with AUM, community
by Neil Probst | Apr 26, 2016
Community Engagement/Continuous Learning: Each year, Auburn University at Montgomery welcomes students from Maxwell Air Force Base’s Air War College to campus to share their experiences and perspectives with AUM students, faculty and staff, and members of our community. This year’s panelists will discuss “Leading and Serving in Changing Times,” sharing their views on how the military has changed and developed over the past 20 years and answering questions from audience members. The presentations are part of the Hap Arnold Lecture Series, jointly sponsored by the Air War College and Auburn Montgomery OutReach.
This reporter had an opportunity to sit down with this year’s panelists to talk about their leadership lessons and perspectives.
The experiences of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Adam Stone, Royal Australian Air Force Wing Commander Pete Thompson, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Beth Behn, and U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Denise Mull stretch back more than 20 years and have taken the officers across the world, into the air, and onto the battlefield.
Over those years, a major change in the military is responsiveness to soldiers and families, Behn said.
“When I came in in the 90s, people used to joke, ‘If the Army wanted you to have a family, they would have issued you one,’” Behn said. “That mentality has really changed, and it’s a change for the better because our families make an enormous amount of sacrifices.”
Military members also make sacrifices, serving oceans and lands away to serve their countries, and, when deaths occur, the military does its best to honor the fallen, said Mull, who will share experiences of losing soldiers on her watch.
“It’s important that you mourn your losses while in combat,” Mull said.
“The grieving process occurs the whole time while you continue the mission. It’s important for the community to know that because their sons and daughters and their parents are obviously coming from our communities.”
Still, tragedy can strike at home as well, where the military also provides its members counseling in times of grief or other distress, Stone said.
Stone was a squadron commander in Aurora, Colo., when James Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 70 at a movie theater.
“I had seven of my Airmen that were in the theater that night,” Stone said. “We didn’t lose anybody, but we lost people from the base who were there, and my guys knew some of the people in the theater. It was a very difficult time, and the responsibility of a commander to take care of their people, make sure that they get all of the care they need, both mental and physical, in an extreme situation like that is very important.”
Leadership in changing times also includes an awareness of technological developments, Thompson said.
“One of the issues I see in the changing world is changing technology and how that can impact leadership and the potential for it to have a negative impact on trust,” he said.
Military members have increased access to social media and to iPhones, Thompson said, and these tools can lead military members to bypass superiors in the chain of command and to quickly seek assistance with problems instead of first studying the issue themselves.
“Often junior Airmen won’t make a decision for themselves. They will simply ring a guy higher up and ask them what to do,” he said.
A solid partnership
A sense of appreciation for the communities they serve underscores the leadership experiences of each officer, a feeling echoed by Gene C. Kamena, assistant professor, Joint Strategic Leadership course director and deputy department chair at Air War College.
"The Hap Arnold program is an excellent example of what organizations can accomplish through meaningful partnership," Kamena said.
And at AUM, university leaders appreciate the opportunity to work with Air War College on a program that helps the community better understand the military.
“Auburn Montgomery has had the honor to co-host the Hap Arnold program with the Air War College for the last three years,” said Leslie A. Meadows, interim executive director of Training Solutions at SummaSource at Auburn Montgomery.
“Our SummaSource and OutReach divisions of Auburn Montgomery, which specialize in leadership development and connecting business and community partners, value the relationships that have been built through this initiative,” she said.
(Editor’s note: The Warhawk Spotlight features news about people, projects and programs at AUM that illustrate our Core Values. Need a refresher on our Core Values?)