INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --
“G-code in effect, I repeat, g-code is now in effect.”
Codes are how the Air Force identifies the capabilities and sometimes the needs of its Airmen. To the flying community, a “G-code” signals there is a female aboard the aircraft, which is rare.
For the 22d Expeditionary Air Refueling (EAR) Squadron commander, Lt. Col. Jessica Guarini, G-code is more than just flight terminology, but a motto to live by.
“A G-code is not meant to limit someone or ensure they get preferential treatment but instead its used to ensure the aircraft commander is able to take care of all of their people,” said Guarini. "By understanding who each and every person is, we can ensure we care for them to the best of our ability, so they can in turn care for the mission."
While most commanders are able to plan their unit’s vision months in advance, in the middle of her one-year assignment as the 39th Air Base Wing’s the chief of safety, Guarini was unexpectedly selected for command and had a mere week to come up with her game plan.
“Really my plan was just to get a vibe for what the squadron needed, where we were at and then where I thought we could go,” said Guarini. “Usually you want to give it between 30 and 60 days when you get in the seat before you make any changes but in a contingency environment you don’t have that luxury. You continually need to change and adapt because you’re getting new people in at all times the culture of your organization is constantly changing. Being able to set that standard early and holding people to that standard is important.”
With the responsibility of providing refueling capabilities to aircraft in the AOR, the 22 EARS conduct around-the-clock operations to support the warfighter in the southern region. The 22d EARS has soared to new heights since she took command in January 2019, boasting an air tasking order support percentage between 98 and 100 percent.
“The mission is extremely important to me, but the people are key,” said Guarini. “Balancing operations and people is difficult because we have people in the area of responsibility depending on us to get gas. It’s a fine balance to make sure that we’re continuing to support the warfighter but at the same time if we don’t take care of the people they’re not going to be there to perform the mission.”
One way Guarini maintains this balance is by hosting morale events for every holiday and Sunday brunches and BBQs at her house, to create a home away from home for her Airmen.
“It’s important to be inclusive and not exclusive,” said Guarini. “The ability to make it feel like more of a family and home environment here makes people want to be a part of our team.”
Some may describe her leadership style as a “momma bear” approach, but that hasn’t stopped her from holding her Airmen to the standard of extreme ownership, accountability and empowerment at all levels.
“I’m all about taking ownership and accountability in everything you do,” said Guarini. “Whether that’s your work space or different projects that you have, having that ownership and buy in from the people is important as well as holding them accountable when they’re not meeting the mark.”
Guarini took the stick with one goal in mind: unify the squadron. Prior to taking command, the squadron operated with separated the maintenance and operator processes and procedures.
“From day one, she made sure everyone knew we were all one squadron, a part of one fight,” said Tech. Sgt. Constance Downs, 22d EARS noncommissioned officer in charge of commander’s support staff. “For instance, before the operators were the only ones getting intelligence briefs but one of her priorities was ensuring everyone understood how what they do contributes to the bigger picture. She streamlined the procedures to make sure everyone was a part of the same meetings, processes and getting the same information.”
As Guarini passes the reins, one change she hopes will remain long after she gone is empowering people.
“Once you learn to just empower the people instead of trying to control every little thing people will surprise you with their ingenuity,” said Guarini. “I always tell my Airmen when they are in processing that I’m empowering you to make changes. We always say let’s make it better for the people after us but I say let’s make it better for you while you’re here. We may not score a touchdown while I’m here but we’re going to continue to move that ball in the right direction.”