Flight Lead Program works through kinks

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Question: Incirlik recently implemented the "Flight Lead Program." This program is targeted to members who are 26 and below, regardless of rank. In recent articles about the program, it seems that the very next sentence after mentioning the Flight Lead Program, says that "The primary way of ARI prevention boils down to individual responsibility and accountability." If this is true, why do we need to implement the Flight Lead Program?

I do agree that the deaths this fiscal year/current year have been tragic; however, every death is not preventable.

If we are supposed to be living by the model "One team, one fight," then we need to do this consistently, not only when it is convenient. If we lived by the aforementioned model, then it should be mandatory for everyone to brief their supervisor on their weekend plans. The fact that I have to go to my Flight Lead, whom never asked me of my weekend plans prior to the implementation of this program, and provide him/her with a briefing of my plans for the weekend is disturbing because once again I'm being punished for the mistakes of others.

It is apparent when leadership cares about their subordinates because they will ask of their whereabouts without being forced. That is exactly how I feel each time I have to do my briefing. The person who has been appointed as my Flight Lead does not sincerely care of my well being, otherwise, they would have been concerned prior to this mandated briefing. Even though this has been a mandatory requirement from headquarters, I believe we failed to implement the program appropriately.

Honestly, is there anyone who really believes that I'm going to contact my Flight Lead, a person who has been appointed to me, when faced with trouble off duty? Absolutely not.

Please know that I do understand the intent of this program, but with the current guidelines, I don't think it is going to be very effective. To make this program really work, I think that leadership needs to listen to what we (26 and under) are saying. It shouldn't have to take an anonymous e-mail sent to the Tip of the Sword before we receive an answer; however, the communication on this base is a whole other topic.

Is it possible for the member's affected under this program to select his/her own Flight Leader? I asked this question when the program was first implemented and the answer was no. I feel that if I'm going to be punished for what other 26 and under members are doing, someone should at minimum explain why I have to be appointed a Flight Lead and not select my own. I understand that if further down the line we are able to select our own Flight Lead, that there will be restrictions. As we all know, just because you are over 26 doesn't mean you are reliable. Is it possible that we can tailor this program to maximize the effectiveness by selecting our Flight Lead versus having one appointed?

I really commend and respect my supervisor for sincerely caring about me even before the implementation of this mandatory care program. To all of the Flight Leads, please keep in mind that we can easily spot disingenuous charisma, which will eventually erode morale and mission effectiveness.

Lastly, if and when someone responds to my comments, please don't insult our intelligence by stating the standard, "No one made you raise your hand and join the military" speech. I feel that when leadership is confronted with valid, complicated concerns, it seems that is the blanket response versus really researching and explaining the correct response. Thank you and have a great day.


Response: Wow, this is a great Action Line. I sincerely appreciate your very clear and clarion call to leadership on how to make the Flight Lead program more effective. Let me give you the BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): yes we can re-work the Flight Lead program to give you a say in the selection of your Flight Lead. Ideally, one would think your Flight Lead should be your supervisor because as you point out good supervisors should be engaged with their Airmen.

As with most bureaucracies and military organizations things often boil down to running and completing a checklist. The unfortunate by-product of this approach as you appropriately point out is the dilution of the intent behind the program at inception. You write "leadership needs to listen to what we (26 and under) are saying"...I will respond with "I do." I meet with every FTAC class, every ALS class, and now brief every newcomer to the base on the program. We also run a shadow program for the same population once a month so that we can better understand the younger perspective. Before we set up our ARI prevention program a year ago I sat down with the target population. I am sorry if I did not come to you personally and ask for your thoughts on the matter but believe you will understand that I have a limited number of hours in a day and unfortunately I am unable to sit down with each and every 26 year old and younger and ask them how we should approach our ARI problem. At the end of the day, we should be doing exactly what we are doing here...continually adjusting and improving our approach through an exchange of ideas and perspectives.

You also mention more than once that you are disturbed "because once again I'm being punished for the mistakes of others." I continue to grapple with this perception and fully understand your point. Corporately we are working to accelerate the corrective action process for ARIs as well as trying to apply more of a surgical blade in our response. From my perspective it makes good sense between friends and co-workers to know each others plans for time off. Any time we bifurcate and target a specific population we are going to get blow-back. I have often explained there is nothing magical about the 26 and younger population other than the insurance company statistic that site this demographic at greater risk for incident than older populations. I've been 26 and younger so I am qualified to speak to the associated behavior risks of this population. My intent is to help this population at Incirlik make it to 27 years of age and that is why we have the Flight Lead program. We can and will make the program more effective as you suggest and I welcome additional feedback on the program as it evolves.

Finally, I hope my response has not "insulted your intelligence." Your point about not preaching "no one made you raise your hand and join the military" really has very little to do with you but everything to do with my approach. I am ultimately vested with the responsibility of ensuring our mission success and to do that I need you and everyone else. My approach to ARIs and the Flight Lead program has everything to do with meeting that responsibility. I will do everything and anything to ensure that no one dies on my watch, especially as the result of an ARI.