Camaraderie: A powerful mission multiplier

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Tom Vance
  • 341st Missile Maintenance Squadron commander
My daughter, age 6, has had a remarkable sense of the camaraderie shared amongst Air Force members since she was 2 years old. Every time she encountered an Air Force member in uniform, she would inquire, "Is that your friend, daddy?" Naturally, I always responded in the affirmative. Her simple, yet effective, insights into unit camaraderie provide an example from which everyone can benefit.

Camaraderie is the essence of what binds military units together, providing a cohesiveness among the individual members, which allows the unit to function effectively as a collective entity. I believe the level at which it permeates throughout a military unit corresponds proportionally to the level of mission success the unit can achieve. Those units that foster a sense of mission purpose, belonging, teamwork and eventually, a sense of collective pride in their purpose possess a unified strength, which enhances accomplishments, endures challenges and overcomes hardships. Because of this, camaraderie is a powerful mission multiplier that instills in each of us the drive to perform to the utmost of our abilities for the benefit of each other, our unit and our mission. While this may seem to over-exaggerate the significance of camaraderie, I believe quite strongly that its importance to successful mission accomplishment cannot be overstated.

Camaraderie also suppresses occurrences of individualism -- when one prioritizes their career ambitions, beliefs, desires etc. over the requirements of the team. This is not meant to understate the importance of personal pride. In fact, personal pride is inherent in organizational pride -- when properly couched in terms of mission accomplishment. If one cannot push himself/herself to attain personal excellence, he/she cannot inspire excellence in others nor can he/she fully commit to the team's mission. Camaraderie encourages members of a unit to achieve their success by helping others to succeed thereby ensuring unit objectives are met. Being a team player, helping others to succeed and focusing on the mission endears people to their subordinates, peers and leadership to a far greater extent than endeavoring to stand out amongst teammates by being a "lone wolf."

Everyone has served in an organization that suffered from a diminished sense of belonging: where people showed up to work, did what was required of them and departed without much interaction with their comrades. While this can result in an acceptable level of unit competence and mission accomplishment, it is devoid of those qualities that promote long-term success. If people believe what they do is important --contributing to the team and furthering the unit's assigned mission -- they are more likely to excel at what they do as well be able to sustain that excellence beyond the short term.

How does leadership foster camaraderie? I believe in and follow these rules of thumb:

· Provide a clear organizational vision and purpose; hold people accountable (positive and negative consequences);
· Recognize excellence (results and effort);
· Develop fair, equitable and realistic expectations -- personal and organizational;
· Institute clear and enforceable standards. Creating a synergistic relationship between these rules and the needs of the assigned Airmen will pay dividends for any organization.

I doubt that my daughter had developed such an extensive understanding of camaraderie when she began referring to Air Force members as friends, but she has surprised me before. I do believe there is a lot of wisdom in this innocent and simple observation. So, to all of my 341st Missile Wing "friends," remember to place importance on camaraderie in your units. It will enhance both the mission and your own morale.