Commanders lead bases during pandemic
By Daryl Mayer, AFLCMC Public Affairs
/ Published November 05, 2021
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio (AFLCMC) – “There are some hard days. There are some days you go home … and be like man that was an awesome day. But there are also days you go home and are like, ‘Wow, what just happened.’” said Col. Pat Miller, 88th Air Base Wing and Wright-Patterson AFB installation commander.
“Then you think about the team, you think about why you serve, you think about the differences that you're making. So, you dust yourself off, you learn from the experience and you get back in the fight.”
Miller and his counterpart at Hanscom AFB in Massachusetts, 66th Air Base Group Commander Col. Katrina Stephens, shared their experiences as installation commanders during a recent episode of AFLCMC’s Leadership Log podcast.
“I will tell you for me it's an honor and a privilege,” Stephens said. “It is a distinct honor and a privilege that that I was given … to work with such incredible people serving an incredible mission. Not everybody gets this opportunity, so I'm not taking a day for granted. Every day is an opportunity to make a difference in my life and everybody else's life.”
While spread across the US at numerous sites, the majority of AFLCMC programs and personnel reside on their two installations. The support they provide runs the gamut from building infrastructure, personnel systems, communications, etc., and is essential to the center meeting mission objectives. Additionally, Wright-Patt is also home to several other major organizations including Headquarters AFMC, AFRL and NAISC, while Hanscom is the sole remaining active-duty installation in the six-state New England region. In short, many tens of thousands of active-duty, civilians, contractors, reservists, family members and retirees rely daily on the teams they lead.
Miller, a career civil engineer, and Stephens with a degree in Public Health, took command early last summer (2020) when the COVID response was in full swing. While it has dominated the agenda, both found the ability to continue moving forward.
“How do you establish trust and build relationships in an environment where at the time, everybody was gone,” Miller said. “But then, as installation commanders, we still have a mission set that drives people to the installation. You can't defend the installation, with a defender from home. You can't maintain medical services with a medic from home. So there are things that we need to do to bring in our team, as well as support those we’re encouraging not to come to the installation during the COVID environment.”
They both agreed communication with the team was a major challenge.
“One of the biggest lessons that I've learned during this COVID thing is that not everybody listens and hears the same thing,” Stephens said. “And not everybody uses the same medium or mode to get their information. So it was really incumbent upon myself and my team … that we're seeking out those innovative ways to connect to people, so people felt like they had value, purpose and meaning.”
To hear the full conversation, you can watch Leadership Log on YouTube at https://youtu.be/jx3OrTSJ7Qw. You can also listen by searching “Leadership Log” on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, Overcast, Radio Public or Breaker.