Dragon Corner: What’s your legacy?

  • Published
  • By Col. George Tombe
  • 81st Training Group commander
How are you going to be remembered? It's a great question. Probably one we don't think about every day as we interact with our family, friends or people in the workplace. Unfortunately, I think as we tend to get a little older, we probably think about this question just a bit more. Each time I take command, I find myself reflecting on a related subject I was forced to deal with years ago.

While stationed in Germany, as a young lieutenant, my grandfather passed away. So as I made the long trip back home from Germany to California, I thought about what the loss of my grandfather meant to me. Because I had two working parents, he was my primary caregiver, he was my mentor, and he was my teacher. He taught me small things like how to cook and more important things like how to be a gentleman. I was also his only boy (he had three daughters and two granddaughters), so he taught me to fish, play sports and all those other things fathers do with their sons. He nearly died from a heart attack while I was in college, but he managed to hang on long enough to see my graduation (I was the first in my family to graduate from college) and subsequent commissioning in the U.S. Air Force. So, when he finally passed away, it was important to my grandmother that I not only attend the funeral, but that I say a few words.

I thought about what I could possibly say that would mean anything of significance to his friends and family who had known him longer than I. But then I began to think about all the things I did, the man I had become. Certainly we didn't look alike, but short of that, I had become my grandfather's reflection. It made me realize life is not about things, possessions or even wealth. It's about the people around us and how we touch their life in a positive and meaningful way. Unfortunately, each of us will leave someday. Some will change station, some will retire and, eventually, we all die. But that is not the end. It's just the beginning. Because when I leave, the lessons I've passed on, the lives I touched, the people I've helped will hopefully pass those same lessons on to others. That is our legacy. So, what is your leadership legacy?

First you must understand what a leader is. It's not about your rank or position. Although those things are important, leadership is much more. You can be a leader at work or at church or even in your home. Leadership is about being out in front, taking responsibility for those around you. It's about communicating a vision for a better tomorrow and helping others aspire to that vision. Remember, managers manage, leaders inspire!

I've seen A1C's who have no fear of leading and I've seen senior NCOs and officers who would not lead if forced in to it. Some people say it is something you are born with, but I disagree. When I took command of my first flight, I was scared to death of leading. I didn't want to be responsible for others. It is much easier to only worry about yourself. But now, I relish opportunities to lead, on and off duty. It is selfish to want to do anything less. Leadership is teaching others to take your place when you are gone. It is helping others when you don't have to. But most of all, it is sincerely and deeply caring about others; wanting to make sure that somebody else's life is better because you were there. In turn, if you are being a good leader, you are fostering an environment of trust and respect.

So I challenge each one of you to leave your own leadership legacy. Get out there, help somebody, mentor, teach and most of all, make sure that Team Keesler and the Air Force are a better place each day because you were there. If each one of us can simply touch one person's life in a positive and meaningful way each day, think about how much better it our Air Force will be tomorrow. That's a legacy worth leaving.