Wing thrives because of 'Rowans'

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Stan A. Sheley
  • 934 MXG commander
At my core, I am just a simple maintenance officer. I don’t read classic literature in my spare time. I have never eaten delicate French cuisine that favorably compares to a thick slice of prime rib with a loaded baked potato. I recognize the names Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle as Greek philosophers, but I have no clue what their views on life were (except for my limited exposure to Socrates in the movie Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure). Frankly, although I admire the skill sets promoted by leadership gurus Peters, Waterman, and Drucker, my personal leadership style more closely resembles the “Git-R-Done” philosophy of Larry the Cable Guy. All the extraneous elements of the mission are fine (planning, organizing, communicating, etc.), but when it really comes down to it, you have to get the job done or you have failed.

What do I mean by “getting it done”? The best illustration I know of comes from the 19th Century during the Spanish-American War. The following excerpt is taken from a letter written by Elbert Hubbard in 1899 titled “A Message to Garcia”:

When war broke out between Spain and the United States it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cuba – no one knew where. No mail nor telegraph could reach him. The President must secure his cooperation, and quickly. What to do!

Someone said to the President, “There’s a fellow by the name of Rowan who will find Garcia for you, if anybody can.”

Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How “the fellow by the name of Rowan” took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter to Garcia – are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail. The point that I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, “Where is he at?”

By the Eternal! There is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men we need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing – “Carry a message to Garcia!”

We have heroes in this wing getting the job done every day. It has been my honor to work closely with nearly 300 “Rowans” in the maintenance group over the past three years. There is no doubt that Aristotle was a genius; but if we have an airplane launching in four hours that needs a nose tire changed, a philosopher isn’t going to get the job done. I’ll take the 934 AMXS crew chief every day to get the job done right the first time, every time. When we disassemble, repair and reassemble our aircraft every year during isochronal inspections, the real “Rowans” are the 934 MXS mechanics who put out a product that is the envy of all.

“Rowans” are not only limited to mechanics. I have spent three years asking questions of the 934 MOF they already had answered. They don’t sit around and wait to be told what to do; they see the task and tackle things before problems arise. Do you think travel orders are getting cut or huge volumes of inspections are being done by themselves? No! The “Rowans” in the orderly room and QA are getting it done every day. For everyone in the maintenance group, thank you for being “Rowans” every day. Finally, I would like to leave you with a few final (very simple) thoughts. Fans of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour will recognize the format of my statements.
1. I believe that contrary to popular opinion, there are stupid questions, and if we start pointing those questions out more often, we could reduce the number.
2. I believe if we treat everyone with kindness and respect, we won’t have to worry so much about always being politically correct.
3. I believe there is a difference in work ethic between Air Force units; I also believe the work ethic at the 934th is unmatched.