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Wing executive officer crucial to leadership success

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 460th Space Wing's executive officer is the oil that keeps the senior leadership machine running.

The executive officer plays a major role in determining the effectiveness of the commander and vice commander.

"Essentially my job is to make (the commanders) more effective at thier job," said Capt. Alex Courtney, 460th SW executive officer. "I have to filter out smaller tasks that don't need to concern him or make sure that things are ready so that when he sees a request he has all the information he needs to make a good decision."

The relationship between the command team and the exec is a crucial one. The exec must adapt to the commanders' leadership style in order to establish a super hero, side kick relationship.

"He helps me each day, every day," said Col. Mitchell Stratton, 460th SW vice commander. "The combination of the executive officer and the executive assistant are kind of the engine room of the wing. They're tracking all of the work that needs to be done in house, all the taskings we receive from the wing and higher headquarters, and all of the responses we owe back to the world whether its performance reports, awards, decorations or suspenses."

Time management is perhaps one of the most important aspects of a job in such a fast-paced, dynamic environment. On top of maintaining his own work schedule, Courtney must manage the schedules of the wing commander and vice commander.

"A lot of what I do is sorting the mail. We get requests from all over and I have to look at it, and based on whatever description I can pull out of there, I have to distribute it to whoever needs to act on this information," Courtney said.

With all of the incoming and outgoing correspondence, it's vitally important that the exec maintains an organized schedule and workspace.

"You've got to be organized to be the exec. Too much stuff is coming in, and when it comes in you have to have an idea of what sort of process you need to execute on it," Courtney said. "A contributor to the stress of the job is that there is a lot stuff going on, and it's all important. I can't let anything drop; and if I do, it's going to hurt somebody."

The executive officer may end up putting in long hours to accomplish the multiple tasks levied on him. The duties of an exec may be heavy and the sacrifices are numerous, but the rewards are countless, Courtney explained. The exec has the opportunity to witness firsthand how senior leadership functions at the upper levels.

Some of the things he was most excited for when he got this job is being able to see the decision process of the wing leadership, as well as see the principles they live by and use as touchstones in their decision making, Courtney said.

"Regardless of what I do or where I go, the lessons and skills I've learned in this job are going to set me up well," Courtney said.

Without the diligent efforts of the wing's exec, the well-tuned, decision-making machine could grind to a halt.
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