Meet your leadership: Lt. Col. Nathan Mansfield, 728th AMS commander

  • Published
  • By 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

This summer brought in many new faces to Incirlik Air Base. Many of these Airmen are new squadron commanders, group commanders and even a vice wing commander and command chief. To help members of team Incirlik gain a better understanding of who their leadership is and what their expectations may be, the 39th Air Base Wing public affairs office, is releasing a series of personality features on our new leaders.

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

Answer: Both of my grandfathers were retired officers, and I grew up in Southeastern Virginia, which has a strong military representation … Air Force, Navy and Army. So, it was something that was sort of part of my life growing up. I went to college at Virginia Tech. VT has a full-time Corps of Cadets, just like Texas A & M. It’s a military school inside a larger university. To do Reserve Officer Training Corps there, students have to join the corps. When I went to the orientation for incoming students at VT, all sorts of student organizations were represented. Of all the representatives, the guy from the Corps of Cadets stood out. He was articulate, confident and he basically told us we could do the normal, “college thing” or we could join the Corps of Cadets and fly jets, become special ops guys, drive aircraft carriers, etc. That sounded way more fun than anything else I could think of, so I joined up and here I am. I’m still in uniform because of the people and the mission. Everywhere I’ve been, Airmen have consistently taken care of each other and the mission while trying to be more effective every day … I don’t know if that’s common outside of the military, but it’s a foregone conclusion in the Air Force … that’s pretty motivating!    

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

A: I’m proudest of my family. They’re awesome people. My wife is an amazing partner, she doesn’t always like where I have to go or what I have to do, but she supports me. My kids are awesome and resilient. They make me want to be a better person every day and I’m proud to be a husband and a dad.   

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

A: Two of them. Col. Howard Ward and Brig. Gen. Paul Guemmer. Ward was my squadron commander when I flew C-130’s at Pope Air Force Base, N.C.; now Pope Army Airfield. He wasn’t afraid to get emotionally into his leadership. He taught his flight commanders what it meant to be a servant leader. He challenged every one of us to invest in the people as well as the mission. We were deploying a bunch at the time and that personal style of leadership was really important to us. Guemmer was my wing commander at Fairchild AFB, Wash. I served as his wing exec. He had a very deliberate decision making process. He sought out advice from his leadership team before making a significant decision, but when the time came to make a decision he made it! He had a calm, logical and predictable decision making process. I learned the value of being deliberate from him. 

Q: 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?

A: I’m maturing as a leader every day, but I think realizing that my mission is supported by someone else’s mission, and that my mission supports someone else’s mission was a real, “watershed” moment for me. The event that comes to mind is a medical evacuation mission we flew a few years ago when I was flying C-130s. We alerted to fly to a forward operation base in Afghanistan and pick up a combat controller who’d been injured in an improvised explosive device attack and get him to a larger medical facility at Bagram Airbase. We had flown a few medical evacuations up to that point in the deployment, but this one was different. We took off quicker than usual because we were told we needed to get there as soon as possible. We got a pretty short airfield and tactics brief and launched. When we got to the field the ambulance arrived with the guy and the critical care air transport team. We could tell that the guy was really bad. The Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron crew was moving really fast and we realized this was going be close. I really don’t remember the ground operations, taxi, takeoff or the landing. I just remember cleaning out the back of the, ‘Herk’ after we offloaded the patient. I’d been flying for about five years up to that point and I knew how important our mission was, but I don’t think I’d really thought about the fact that we were there to bring to bear a critical capability to the fight. All at once I got it. It’s not about me or the crew or the plane. It’s about doing your job because there are real people relying on you. He made it and we were able to attend his decoration ceremony at Pope about six months later.

Q: What is your personal mission statement?

A: Laser focused on caring for my wife, my kids and my Air Force family, provide more of my time to them than myself and not taking any success or failures seriously enough to keep me from focusing on getting right tomorrow, what I got wrong today.

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

A: I love the Thomas Carlyle quote, “I have a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom.” I value knowing what you stand for and working tirelessly for it. I’m a faithful person and I believe in God, my family and hard-work. I expect the Airmen of the 7-2-8 to respect each other and to commit to getting better individually and as a team every day.

Q: What is your strategic vision for your organization?

A: In the near term, we’ll provide excellent maintenance and aerial port support to the enroute Air Mobility mission. Going forward, we’ll be postured to adjust to changes to the throughput mission without missing a step. We also need to grow Airmen in the short time they’re here so when they leave they’re better than when they got to us.

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

A: To remove obstacles that get in my Airmen’s way, personally and professionally, so they can focus on their mission. To make sure they’re recognized for the great work they are doing, whether that be promotions, decorations or awards. And, to learn as much as possible about them and their mission because like I said before, I’m not done growing as an Airmen, follower or a leader.

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

A: I expect them to realize the Air Force doesn’t have everything right. That they have good ideas about how to do things better and smarter and to share those ideas. I expect them to have intellectual curiosity and to question why we’re doing things the way we’re doing them. I expect them to help out those Airmen that need help, to mentor and lead the ones who need it and mostly to have each other’s backs.

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

A: Assuming we’re resourced appropriately and we have clear guidance. I expect to accomplish the mission we’re given. Pretty simple actually. Not always easy, but simple.