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Wing Chaplain empowers arriving Airmen to excel under heavy deployment demands

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing

As Airmen arrive in the deployed environment, the 332nd AEW Chaplains Corps wants to help them make a smooth transition to the sometimes breakneck pace of deployed operations and give them a perspective that allows them the freedom to jump into operations with both feet.

Wing Chaplain, Maj. Lance Schrader, meets incoming commanders and immediately addresses what he calls a core fear, that of making a mistake.

“I reserve the right to be wrong and I reserve the right to change my mind,” he says to the assembled officers.

He goes on to explain how this approach creates an environment where organizations can flourish.

“When I’m leading people and I’m leading in such a way that I’m never wrong, then I’m in trouble. People that work for me will never confront me and say ‘Sir, this is not right, we need to do this a different way,’” he said.

“And pretty soon I’ll have a whole group of people that are afraid of me because I’m never wrong. So I have to reserve the right to be wrong, I have to give my people the right to be wrong because this creates healthy conversation and healthy debate in our workplace.”

He says that some mistakes are inevitable but that this philosophical approach empowers a person to simply try their best, to in effect throw off the paralysis of indecision and fear of failure.

“Now I’m creating an environment where other people can take risks and be aggressive and take initiative, which is what we want our people to do,” he said.

Considering the environment, he says taking initiative is absolutely necessary.

Brig. Gen. Joseph Kunkel, the 332nd AEW Commander, conducts a briefing for all newcomers to the wing and describes a wing culture they are stepping into where, “warriors are developed to be disciplined, lead fearlessly, be aggressive, willing to take prudent risks, and seize combat initiative.”

Schrader says Airmen stepping into this culture have to accept the risk of making an error while embracing the opportunity it presents.

“I think if we are going to achieve this desired end state we are going to have to deal with some failures along the way, and we are going to get it wrong from time to time. But if we give each other the right to be wrong and the opportunity to change our minds as we strive hard to achieve this desired end state we will have the foundation we need for every other priority we set our effort toward.”

And he hopes that by empowering Airman to embrace the pace and the critical nature of the mission at the 332nd AEW they will rapidly form a bond with the team and continue to help the United States Air Force protect lives and property even halfway around the world.