Opportunities for leadership

Maj. David Hodgson, Commander of 21st Space Operations Squadron, Detachment 2.

Maj. David Hodgson, Commander of 21st Space Operations Squadron, Detachment 2.


Let me say what an honor and privilege it is to be able to command a detachment in the 21st Space Operations Squadron and work with the 50th Network Operations Group. While I have only been in this position a short while, every day has been exciting and meaningful. The Detachment 2 and entire 21st SOPS family is stellar, and I will do my part to keep up their tradition of excellence.

I feel very lucky to be able to serve in the Air Force and have had some fantastic assignments ranging from operating the large strategic radar at Cavalier Air Force Station, North Dakota (which was too cold), to working at the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California (which was just right), to now supporting the Air Force Satellite Control Network mission from a tropical island (which is too hot). When you throw in ICBM operations in beautiful Montana and a recent tour at headquarters Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado it has been a really good run.

For me, there was never really any question about joining the Air Force. My father was an Air Force officer who always seemed to be doing exciting things in service to the country, and while he never pressured us, my two sisters and I all joined. I attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and commuted to Tennessee State University for Air Force ROTC, where I received my commission. I am proud of everyone who chooses to serve in the Armed Forces and of the families that support them daily, we all know the challenges and shared sacrifices.

I have been lucky to work for many outstanding leaders during the last 12 years, but the one who has made the most impact on me personally is Lt. Col. Nate Hippe.

I had the good fortune to arrive at Cavalier AFS just as he became director of operations there, and was able to work closely with him for two-years, which was essentially a two year course in leadership for me. He is an extremely intelligent officer capable of doing the work of four people while taking everything in stride to give enlightened directions and advice, but this didn’t prevent him from being humble and always making time to mentor his people, regardless of rank. Hippe did things the right way and made sure those things became the culture and standard. I learned an enormous amount about leadership from him and it has served me well ever since.

I am amazed by the amount of things people, especially leaders, have coming across their desks in our current operating environment. We all really are trying to do more with the proverbial less. Add to this the element of being in constant communication with your people and the stage is set for distraction or worse. I believe everyone needs a clear vision or plan about what they are trying to do in life and work. I often give what I am doing a sanity check:  Did what I just spent time on advance the mission or help my people in any way?  The answer is often revealing.

One thing I try to do is see things from other people’s perspective, because I think that is the key to getting a full understanding of a situation. Dale Carnegie advances this by suggesting one become genuinely interested in other people and try to honestly see things from the other person’s point of view. It is a very enlightening exercise.  His timeless advice to be a good listener is absolutely essential.

I have a new baby daughter and a 4-year-old son whom my wife and I just moved half way around the world, so that sums up my hobbies. I was a musician in a former life and still enjoy hearing my wife play violin with the symphony. I also really like to read and watch movies, and have heard one needs to scuba if you live on Guam. For my bosses back home, rest assured I will be at the office more than the beach, but I’ll bet the government phone you gave me has service there too.

One thing that makes me hopeful for the future is watching the next generation of leaders, both officer and enlisted, start to step up and come into their own. I don’t make generalizations about groups, but many of the individuals I’ve worked with have been truly exceptional.

I’ve found it is better to provide what you want to happen and not how, if the situation allows. Many times the solution brought back has been better and more artful than one I could have prescribed. People also really find it empowering to execute their vision. This, in my opinion, is a good way to prepare junior Airmen for leadership roles.

If anyone is still reading by this point, thank you for allowing me to share a few of my thoughts. I would also like to thank everyone for their service, both military and civilians alike. What you are doing is important to the mission and for national security. Count your blessings and be good to each other.