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Lessons in Leadership from Our Fallen Airmen

By Staff | Sep 15, 2020

My name is Samantha Thompson, and I graduated from Hughesville with Airman Derrick Horne. While Derrick and I share this similarity, we were bonded by something much deeper than that, we both committed our lives to serving our country in the United States Air Force. While I am technically a member of the Armed Forces, I am still in training to become an officer to lead amazing men and women just like Derrick. Despite the fancy title and rank I will one day wear, it was Derrick who possessed true knowledge from which I needed to learn. My sophomore year here at the academy, I decided to call Derrick and ask him to share this experience. How could I best serve those I was to command? What could I learn from them? I’d like to share some of his answers with you,

“Treat your people like people.”

– No matter how important you may become or how high you climb the ladder, you will always be a human being just like everyone else around you. Never forget that.

“Talk to your people, learn about them and be present.”

– Sometimes officers don’t know how or why their people act the way they do and can get unnecessarily offended because of the way they speak. If you don’t know your people, you will never be able to understand them.

“Take your position with a grain of salt.”

– Coming out of the academy, you’re going to be clueless. You will be called “butter bar” and “the new lieutenant” but take that as it comes and realize that everyone around you has so much more experience.

“Never talk down to your people.”

– Your people may be beneath you in the chain of command, but that gives you no right to be condescending or rude. Always treat everyone around you with respect.

“As a pilot, you’ll probably have the best Airmen.”

– Sure, you have the cool, flashy job flying fast planes, but the people who work to ensure that you can do what you do are the elite of the Air Force. Don’t hold yourself above them based off your job title.

“Never get frustrated with the Airmen you teach and mentor, they are learning!”

– Your job is to learn from and guide those under you. If you write them off as too difficult or slow or anything, you will not only destroy their confidence, but lose their faith. Never give up on your people.

Derrick was an amazing individual, and I am proud to have served with him in our United States Air Force. As is customary at the Air Force Academy when a fellow airman has fallen, here is the recital of the third verse of the United States Air Force Song:

Here’s a toast to the host

Of those who love the vastness of the sky,

To a friend we send a message of the brave who serve on high.

We drink to those who gave their all of old

Then down we roar to score the rainbow’s pot of gold.

A toast to the host of those we boast, the U.S. Air Force.

Very Respectfully,

Samantha Thompson

United States Air Force Academy