Cohesion and unity - the very essence of a successful unit

  • Published
  • By By Col. Chris Ayres
  • 460th Operations Group commander
I've been thinking about these two words a great deal: unity and cohesion. 

As I reflected on those two words and my experiences at previous units, there is no doubt in my mind these two words embodied the secret to success for those organizations.

Our doctrine embodies both of these concepts in Air Force Doctrine Document 1, the cornerstone of how our Air Force organizes, thinks and fights in air, space and cyberspace.

I am no doctrine zealot, but unity and cohesion stand clearly out as the primary objectives for any unit; be it a wing, group, squadron, flight or section to succeed and to be the best.

Unity and cohesion is the very essence of a unit that bonds or gels together. It's total integration of everyone in a unit believing in a common cause. It connotates the idea of a foxhole buddy or, more applicable, the "wingman" concept. It's keeping it tight; it's camaraderie. These are the basic ingredients of every successful unit. Simply, they can make or break a unit.

So how do you build cohesion and unity in any organization? Try this: define a common mission or goal that gets everyone focused, make them feel they are an integral part of it; and then move toward it with everything you've got by repetition and reminders throughout staff meetings, commanders' calls and shop visits.

Second, develop that sense of pride through evaluation and quality assurance inspection ratings. Your standard should be "highly qualified" or "outstanding" ratings. Develop realistic training, advocate function attendance, implement squadron war cries, encourage social gatherings, volunteer your unit for tough additional duties, implement self-help projects, demand on-time Officer Performance Reports, Enlisted Performance Reports and award suspenses, and even establish your own Combined Federal Campaign donation goal above the one given to you.

Further, develop a sense of pride. Have that "be sharp, boots to brains, inside and out" mentality where good-looking uniforms and polished boots are your calling card. Always remind your unit how you are doing in moving the ball forward toward your goal and mission.

Finally, establish unit memorabilia such as coins, patches and even T-shirts.

So what do unity and cohesion have to do with Buckley Air Force Base and our mission? My answer: everything. Unity and cohesion are vital to every one of us here at Buckley. They embody what we don't often hear nearly enough -- Team Buckley. 

We are unique in that Buckley is the fastest-growing and one of the newest bases in the Air Force inventory built from the ground up. 

We have our challenges that may erode unity and cohesion, such as individual personnel deployments that break up back shops; lack of base infrastructure such as housing, officer and enlisted clubs, dining facilities, and more; mixed missile warning operations crews; apathy toward formal organizational council attendance, such as Company Grade Officer Council, Top 3 and Airmen's Council; augmentee detail manning; and a "time-card" mindset where Airmen, officer and enlisted alike, punch in and punch out of work.

All of this is cancerous, but all of these can be easily overcome with energy, initiative and a little out-of-the-box thinking. We already use the chapel and fitness center to conduct several of our promotion ceremonies and commanders' calls. Housing is finally opening up. The 460th Services Division has opened up the Panther Pit at Lake Williams to hold officer or enlisted socials. The 460th Space Communications Squadron is hosting the Panther Challenge run. Intramural sports are at full speed. The Airmen's Lyrical Lounge has been running for the past few months, and we just topped off the summer with the Combat Dining Out sponsored by the 5-6 council.

All of this is awesome and builds the unity and cohesion on this base, but more can be done. I ask what each of us is doing to meet that challenge.

Get involved and look for opportunities to build unit cohesion and unity with gusto and ingenuity. To keep it real, I get kidded around a lot about suggesting squadrons or flights get their own black T-shirt emblazoned with their unit shield or motto. That's OK. I believe in shirt checks because I want them to know I believe in their mission too. But more than that, I am part of Team Buckley and I feel its proud spirit. There should be that "One Team, One Fight" attitude which should encapsulate everyone in this wing. So don't be surprised if you find me asking for one of your shirts.

No doubt, having this attitude will quickly bubble to the top, making Buckley the best Air Force Space Command base there is. So allow me to advocate a Buckley Panther motto to help us on the way, "Team spirit - winning edge - total victory." Believe in it, I do.