Leadership Perspectives: 50th OSS commander


Lt. Col. David Gallagher, 50th Operations Support Squadron commander. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher DeWitt)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Lt. Col. David Gallagher is the commander of the 50th Operations Support Squadron he is a 17 year veteran of the U.S. Air Force. Having served as an intercontinental ballistic missile operator, a spacelift operator, a staff member for a major command and a commander he has a wide breadth of leadership experience. He took some time out of his day to share some of his perspectives.

1. How would you describe your leadership style/philosophy?

My leadership style consists of investing in people, professionally and personally, to accomplish the mission. I accomplish the end-state by empowering supervisors and members within the unit to make sound decisions that fall within the mission, vision and priorities set forth in the unit. I prefer to foster an environment of trust, respect and integrity that focuses on effective communication and teamwork. I’m always encouraging every member within the unit to be a leader regardless of rank and for supervisors to develop leaders at all levels.

2. What was your motivation for joining the Air Force and where did you start your career?

My best friend in high school’s dad was a pilot in the U.S. Navy. I looked up to him as a kid and seeing him in uniform and the way he carried and presented himself inspired me to join the military. I always enjoyed serving others and after college I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I called my mentor and we had a serious conversation about the opportunities of the military. The life-long friends, military tradition and opportunity to serve sold me instantly. I began my career at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, as a deputy missile combat crew commander.

3. Who is a leader that stands out to you and why?

Martin Luther King Jr. was an inspiring and symbolic figure that brought equality to America. He shaped the civil rights movement and was the catalyst to ensure civil rights for all people. It took tremendous courage to lead several protests in pursuit of eliminating racial discrimination in employment, separation in schools and segregation of buses. He will be remembered as someone who sought equal rights for all regardless of race.

4. What are your hobbies, past times or unique skills you have and what draws you to them?

I played basketball in high school and college so I enjoy keeping up with college/professional basketball. Additionally, I grew up in Alabama so I love college football. Spending time with my wife and boys, who are three and one years old, are my real hobbies.

5. What aspects of leadership are the most important to nurture?

Setting the example and holding yourself and others accountable for their actions. Not transferring responsibility to others and taking ownership of your responsibilities. As a leader, you must be accountable and always give credit to the people performing the mission. Additionally, fostering a culture of teamwork and pride in the organization is essential to mission accomplishment in an ever-changing operational environment.

6. How do you handle stress or challenges?

It’s important to have a well-balanced life in order to maintain resiliency. I use the four F’s family, force, fitness and faith. When at home, care for loved ones and relax. When at work, work hard. The military can be a stressful environment; therefore, don’t forget about physical fitness as well as mental and spiritual well-being. What we do in the Air Force is important but so is your long-term health and personal relationships with family and friends.

7. How do you prepare junior Airmen for leadership roles?

It starts with setting clear expectations and the willingness to mentor junior Airmen throughout the process. It’s everyone’s responsibility to develop leaders at all levels of the organization so I try to create buy-in at the flight leadership level as I believe they have the influence to make the biggest difference. We must find opportunities for folks to lead and provide clear feedback throughout the process. Leadership development is a critical component to shaping future leaders of our Air Force.

8. What common trait do you think all successful leaders have?

The ability to set clear goals and be determined and purposeful in achieving them. Successful leaders have a vison of where to take the organization and the self-confidence in their decision making to help get there.