I took command of the 12th Student Squadron (12th STUS) on 6 May 1986. The Student Squadron was on of three flying squadrons of the 12th Flying Training Wing. The primary responsibilities of the squadron included academic training and administration activities for the T-37 and T-38 Pilot Instructor Training trainees. (We couldn’t call them students because a couple of the ‘little darlings’ were offended with the use of the word “student” – the majority of them having just graduated as students from Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT)). And there is nothing more devastating than flying with a ‘trainee,’ or ‘student’ with hurt feelings. But, I digress….
I had been in the Wing for nearly 4 years when I assumed command of the 12th STUS, so I had a good appreciation how it all worked. At the time, the 569th Flying Training Squadron (FTS) was the “premier” flying squadron of Air Training Command. I wasn’t all that “shot in the head” with being given command of the 12th STUS; it was always treated as somewhat of a “bastard step-child” within the Wing. But I became determined to do with it, what I could – to make it better for me having been there.
At my first meeting with the squadron folks I told them I would be leaving in 2 years; as a Colonel selectee, or a civilian selectee – and that I didn’t give a shit which one! And, at the time, I didn’t. I went on to tell everyone that I had, at one time or another, performed the jobs they all had, and that I was no where interested in “micro-managing” their jobs. I then told them that their performance reports would be written on how well they performed with their own initiative – not with my continued direction.
I did explain however, that when I would give them a task, I would ensure they had adequate training and resources for that task – and that I would provide “mid-course guidance” as I saw fit. That was about it.
My next endeavor was to “clean house.” The Student Squadron had become a dumping ground for slackards. Folks who were just biding their time to get out to head off to the airlines. Or dead beats. I had no use for any of them, and soon began getting rid of them. Nothing personal; I just don’t care for slackards.
Then I began to look for ways to draw attention to the good things the folks in the squadron were doing – day in, and day out. I did this several ways. I became more aggressive at inserting “my guys” into Wing activities and projects. I began using my Ops Officer and myself as a “quality control” feature for my IPs when they came up for check rides. Both Bob and I had Stan Eval experience, and I decided to put it to use. We would offer our services to an IP the week before his/her check ride was due – and sometimes the acceptance of the offer wasn’t mandatory!
Over the 18 months I held command of the squadron I think we did pretty good – overall. Could I have done better? Could I have done more? Oh sure… if I had had my head out of my ass! But, for “where I was at the time,” now looking back, I didn’t do too bad for the folks… and I am grateful I had the opportunity to command those folks.