However, there have always been a few standouts; those that clearly had a significant impact on my leadership style that I can pinpoint. One in particular was General Ron Fogelman, a former AF Chief of Staff. I first met then Lt Gen Fogelman in Korea. He was the 7th AF Commander, and I was an E5 Staff Sergeant working on the F-16. As the 7th CC, he didn't get to fly as much as he wanted I'm sure, but whenever he did, I was always impressed as to his approachability, willingness to find out how things were going "out on the flightline" direct from those of us who were in the middle of it, and lack of pretentiousness. He wanted the unvarnished truth of how things were going. Sure, he got briefings all the time, but usually from folks 3 or more times removed from the action, and who usually sugar-coated the info. He endured the usual pomp and circumstance that always accompanies VIPs, but he never seemed very comfortable with it. He was a tough commander but he was fair and made decisions based on what was right, not what was popular or politically correct. He took the heat for his decisions and didn't pass the buck. I even had the pleasure of meeting his wife, known as Miss Jane, during a photo op for their Christmas card. She too made an impression on me that day. She was polite and pleasant to even those of us who were mere grease monkeys. Classy is how I would describe her.
Years later, he was appointed as the AF Chief of Staff amid a bit of grumbling and controversy due to his being a rather junior General. He continued his steadfast leadership style of doing what was right and taking full responsibility for his actions. Integrity and Honor were not buzz words to General Fogelman, they were defining, unwavering commitments to him. He faced some very sensitive issues during his watch, and finally resigned a year early in what I feel is one of the most courageous acts of leadership. He faced the problems with integrating women into the cockpit of offensive aircraft, to the aftermath of the Khobar Tower bombings with distinction. From his success in the Kelly Flinn case to his resignation over the politically motivated scape-goating of Brig. Gen. Terry Schwalier for the Khobar Towers attack, General Fogelman showed what real leadership is.
I'm proud to have served with so many fine, dedicated, real leaders, and sadly watch as they seem to becoming a dying breed. I read once that the Navy used to be made up of wooden ships and iron men, but now consisted of iron ships and wooden men. I know that is not entirely true; that in today's military there are still plenty of iron men and women. However, the civilian side of the leadership equation is sadly lacking in that department. I only hope and pray that the iron men and women survive, and go on to change the paradigm of civilian leadership.
I found this article from several months ago that describes General Fogelman's resignation and compares his leadership to what happened recently with Obama's criminal (in my opinion) delay in getting needed troops to Afghanistan. Pay particular attention to General Fogelman's statement:
“As chief of staff of the United States Air Force, charged with providing military advice to the civilian leadership that the civilian leadership did not value for whatever reason, I had become ineffective as a spokesman. This was a crowd that took any kind of military advice that ran counter to administration policy or desires as a sign of disloyalty on the part of the person providing the advice. That was one element; the other was based on what I had seen and the way the Khobar Towers tragedy had been handled. I simply lost respect and confidence in the leadership that I was supposed to be following.”