Meet your leadership: 39th CPTS commander, Maj. Kelly A. Padden

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- The 39th Air Base Wing units are led by hand-picked commanders here and at geographically-separated groups and squadrons across the region. This series of features gives an inside look at those leaders and their leadership style. This feature highlights the 39th Comptroller Squadron, Maj. Kelly A. Padden.

Question: Why did you decide to join the Air Force and why do you continue to serve?

Answer:  True story ... I decided to join the Air Force because a recruiter showed me pictures of beaches in Florida, Guam and Hawaii.  I continue to serve because I love literally everything about the Air Force lifestyle.  I serve in a job that I feel is vitally important to the mission, I'm motivated every day by the awesome Airmen I have the privilege to work next to, I've traveled the world doing things I never even dreamed of as a kid, and I have the best education money can buy, all thanks to the Air Force.  I'm having so much fun that I blinked and the last 12 years were gone.  I'll continue to serve until someone drags me out, clinging to the door frame by my fingernails.

Question: What is one of your proudest achievements in your military career?

Answer:  Wow ... the Air Force has provided so many opportunities that it's hard to choose one. One of the proudest moments in my career was being selected for squadron command.  To consider the responsibility I have to my Airmen, as well as to the patriots of the greatest country on Earth who entrust us with their most precious resource, their sons and daughters, is kind of overwhelming if I think about it for too long.  Suffice it to say, I'm aware that command is a tremendous position of trust, and I'm so proud to serve the taxpayers, my leaders, my Airmen and their families in that regard.

Question: Is there a leader from your career that influenced you the most? If so, who, and how did they affect the way you lead?

Answer:  When I was a second lieutenant, I had the great fortune to work for Brig. Gen. Sandra Gregory, who at the time was the Director of Budget Operations on the Air Staff.  She was very tough, had (almost) impossibly high standards, but showed great empathy when it counted.  She taught me that taking care of Airmen takes on many different forms, and includes demanding excellence as well as giving hugs.  I received more than a couple old-school "butt chewings" when I screwed stuff up, but she always explained that she expected greatness because she wanted me to be ready for opportunities that were bound to come along.  To this day, I can trace every single good thing that's happened in my career back to the mentorship I received from Brig. Gen. Gregory, and I aspire every day to be the kind of leader she'd be proud of.

Question: Leaders often face a significant challenge or watershed moment early on in their careers that influence their formation as leaders. Did you have any moments like these that helped shape you into the leader you are today?

Answer:  Failure is a powerful motivator.  I get a rush from trying things that are really hard, but I have failed more times than I can count.  As a first lieutenant, I applied for an Air Force-sponsored PhD program that nearly everyone told me I had no business applying for.  I was too junior, I didn't have a strong academic record, my math skills were lacking ... and they were right.  I entered the PhD program completely underprepared, and I failed in my first attempt at comprehensive exams.  I should have been kicked out of school.  Instead, the dean granted me the opportunity to re-take the exams, and after a lot of hard work and long nights, I eventually passed the exams and graduated.  From that dean, I learned how to treat people who fail to meet a standard.  As a leader, I try to assess each failure on its merits, and when appropriate, provide resources to enable an Airman's success on the next attempt. 

Question: What is your personal mission statement?

Answer:  Every Airman is a warrior, every day is a job interview and every challenge is an opportunity.

Question: What values and ethics are the most important to you, and what do you expect from your Airmen?

Answer:  How could I possibly improve upon the Air Force's core values?  I expect integrity, selfless service and excellence.  I also value candor and loyalty in those closest to me.  It's actually an act of loyalty to tell the emperor when he has no clothes. 

Question: What is your strategic vision for your organization?

Answer:  No question -- we want to be the Air Force Comptroller Squadron of the Year.  We're funding the coolest mission on the planet right now.  Our number one job is to make sure every other commander on this installation has the resources he needs to get the stuff he needs to make his mission happen.  That includes ensuring the Airmen who work for the mighty Hodja Nation are paid on time and right the first time so that they're able to focus on their respective missions, and not whether they're able to make their mortgage or car payment because they're waiting on an entitlement to show up on their Leave and Earnings Statement.

Question: What are your leadership goals as a commander while here at Incirlik?

Answer:  If I have one goal while here at Incirlik, it's to bring all the 39th Wing Staff Agencies together to feel like and function as a team.  Across the Wing, most of us benefit from what the WSA brings to the fight.  But many of us don't realize WSA is made up of a bunch of very small (and mighty) offices, some even working out of one and two-person shops, who sometimes miss out on the amenities that being part of a larger squadron entails.  I intend to bring the WSA under one umbrella, coordinate lines of effort across the staff, share opportunities for social events and serve WSA Airmen as their commander.

Question: What are some of your expectations for the Airmen you lead, and why?

Answer:  I expect my Airmen to be experts at their jobs, take pride in their work and be good Wingmen to each other.

Question: What are your mission expectations from the units you lead?

Answer:  From a mission standpoint, I expect my Airmen to understand where they fit into the greater mission of the 39th ABW.  In other words, I want them to work not just their boss's agendas, but their boss's boss's agendas, and always keep the 39th ABW's priorities at the forefront of their decisions.

Question: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Answer:  I just want to close by saying thank you.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve alongside the professional Airmen of the 39th ABW.