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Communication: the key to a good weekend

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Scott Minton
  • 912th Air Refueling Squadron commander
"Flexibility is the key to airpower"

"Fly, Fight, Win"

"Mission First, People Always"

Organizations in general love their slogans. They are meant to provide identity, rally support and provide a vision for the future.

And yet I've never seen an effective slogan about the power of communication when the very purpose of a slogan is to emphasize the power of communicating through a single concept.

If you look at the three quotes above, dig into a more literal interpretation, none of these can be accomplished at the strategic, operational or tactical level without strong communication.

The Air Force Logistics Management Agency has produced two volumes of famous quotes focused on military operations. In 244 pages of famous quotes, communication is mentioned only 13 times. Of those 13, 10 talk about targeting the lines of communication as a means of crippling your enemy.

Having grown up in Ohio, tornado season was a way of life. As a result, having a plan for when the sirens go off was never an option; it was a requirement for survival.

Combine that with a wife who is terrified of severe weather and you are guaranteed to not only have a plan, but to practice it and "table top" the flow several times.

When my wife and I moved to Scott Air Force Base, Ill., we developed a plan, made a kit for the downstairs bathroom and yes, we "table topped" the event just to be sure we didn't miss anything.

One afternoon in May, my wife, two kids and I were sitting in the living room watching TV when the siren went off. I vaguely remember seeing the flashing letters scroll across the TV and heard the warning tones, but I was already in execution mode.

Sprinting through the kitchen to grab the case of water and the snack box, I heard another familiar sound -- the beeping the alarm system makes when the back door opens.

A quick glance informed me the wind was not the culprit, but rather that my son had gone outside to the back porch. After scooping him up and racing to our secure spot, I asked what he was thinking.

"The TV said 'Tornado Watch.' So I did."

Where did I go wrong?

Simple, while my wife and I had developed plans on how to deal with the severe weather that so regularly sweeps through the mid-west, we failed to communicate that plan to the rest of the family. And in the eyes of a child, the instructions on the TV -- the message it communicated -- was quite clear.

In retrospect, the situation is comical and does a solid job of identifying how something as simple as a missed step in communication could produce horrendous results.

As an associate unit on a Reserve installation with a parent wing a thousand miles away, I have become increasingly aware of the importance of communication:

Understand your audience.

Define your message.

Transmit your thoughts.

Sounds simple and yet the range of possible results from a single conveyed thought is astounding. As we move further and further away from face-to-face communications and rely almost wholly on electronic means, the focus on developing solid communication skills needs to be a priority from day one.

These skills are not focused solely on leadership; communication must flow in both directions.

As a last thought, when your boss sends you an email at 4:25 p.m. on a Friday, it's just like your wife asking if she looks good in a dress -- the difference between a good and bad weekend is teetering on good communication.