To be a leader you don’t need to be the star of the show. The USAF Thunderbirds demonstrate outstanding leadership, and capture everyone’s attention with their awe-inspiring flying. But leadership in the background makes that all happen.
I just started reading “Tanker Pilot” by Mark Hasara, sending me down memory lane as an old “Tanker Toad.” I dreamt about flying since I was a child. I read about the Flying Tigers of WWII, piloting their fighters in dramatic air battles. In pilot training, I wanted to graduate to fly the sleek & sexy F-16, but that wasn’t to be. It turns out there’s much more need for pilots of multi-crew airplanes than the single-seat fighter, & so I became a KC-135R tanker pilot. I was disappointed, & didn’t fully appreciate the importance of my role. Reading Hasara’s detailed account of events, while I have fuzzy memories of my flying days, made me realize he understood, in the moment, the significance of his work.
Mark points out that since 9/11, USAF tankers have delivered 20 billion pounds of fuel by air! Tankers in Air Mobility Command are working around the clock, connecting with a receiver somewhere in the world an average of every 4 minutes. In a military operation, not one of those alluring F-16s brings to bear its full capability without air refueling & the same goes for almost every other US military aircraft.
Tankers are unsung heroes. They lead from behind, in an irreplaceable support role. Leadership doesn’t mean shining in front of everyone’s eyes. It’s about fulfilling your role, leading your team in support of something bigger than you.
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