Know your heritage and fly lead

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jason DeSon
  • 8th Fighter Wing deputy judge advocate
The 2011 Chief of Staff of the Air Force reading list came out Jan. 21 and one of the books that made the list was "Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds."

This name should sound familiar to the Airmen of the 8th Fighter Wing. Yes, the room you pass by on the way to Mongolian barbecue in the Loring Club is named after him. If you don't know why, it's because we remember him as "Wolf 1."

On Jan. 2, we celebrated the 44th anniversary of then-Col. Robin Olds' most famous exploit of the Vietnam War, Operation Bolo. This ambitious plan involved a clever (and legal) deception of the North Vietnamese, drawing them into an epic dogfight that officially resulted in seven downed enemy MiGs. It is said that the "Wolf Pack" was born that day as Colonel Olds' last comment to his men prior to stepping out to their Phantoms was, "alright you Wolf Pack, go get 'em!"

"Fighter Pilot" is the story of his life as told by the man himself. Robin Olds holds the distinction of being one of the few pilots to score victories in both World War II and Vietnam. But his greatest legacy is the heritage that still thrives to this day here. This is a testament to his leadership during his tenure as commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing.

"Fighter Pilot" offers us not only a unique case study on Air Force leadership, but also an insight into the attitude of one of our greatest fighter pilots. There are some excellent lessons to be gleaned from his experiences. And those lessons apply across the spectrum to both officers and enlisted, on the flightline or off, who seek to become better leaders in their respective shops.

One of those lessons, I call "Fly Lead." When Colonel Olds arrived at the 8th TFW, he told his pilots that he would learn from them and that he would eventually work his way up until he was leading the combat sorties himself. He was out in front in two weeks. And he stayed in front, until he was directly ordered not to lead any more missions. Now how does this apply to you in your job? Ask yourself, do you know the mission? Do you know what is expected of you and your people? Do you know your people? Their attitudes? Their expectations? Have you visited all your shops or sections? Do you know what everyone does and how those parts fit into the whole? If you can't answer these questions in the affirmative, then you can't lead the way.

Another lesson found in "Fighter Pilot" and closely tied into flying lead, is having the discipline to reach true teamwork, which Colonel Olds defined as "doing the right and proper thing under many different circumstances." If there is one place in the Air Force where you will get a chance to live this mantra, it is right here with the Wolf Pack. With every exercise, inspection or daily operation, our ability to do the right and proper thing is put to the test. But our pride at being a part of the Wolf Pack drives our success. The Wolf Pack is our team. The Wolf Pack is our family.

To learn more about how the Wolf Pack came into being, pick up a copy of "Fighter Pilot" or check out a copy at the library. Not only will you learn about our heritage, but you will gain valuable knowledge about how to be a better leader in our Air Force.