Ariz. Adjutant General talks leadership philosophy

Ariz. Adjutant General talks leadership philosophy

Brig. Gen. Michael McGuire, the Adjutant General of Arizona, speaks with members of the 161st Air Refueling Wing Nov. 6, before an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve event at Sky Harbor International Airport. (Arizona National Guard photo by Army Sgt. Adrian Borunda)

PHOENIX -- Editor's note: The Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA) welcomed a new director and adjutant general September 9. Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael McGuire assumed duties as the state's senior military leader after a 26-year career as an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot in the U.S. Air Force and Arizona Air National Guard.

Most recently, he served as commander of the 162nd Fighter Wing at Tucson International Airport. Arizona National Guard public affairs specialist, Army Sgt. Adrian Borunda, sat down with General McGuire recently for an exclusive interview about his vision, leadership philosophy, and the future of DEMA.

Borunda: Welcome to Phoenix, General, and congratulations on your appointment as our new adjutant general. What excites you most about your new position?

TAG: I'm excited about being the adjutant general in the greatest state in the union. There's no place I'd rather be. This is a state that has vast resources in terms of our most important asset - people. The citizens of Arizona - whom we serve - love their state and their country. They make up our membership and the fabric of our organization. There's greatness here in Arizona. We have open space, beautiful weather, great areas for training, equipping, and maintaining a military force to meet the needs of our state and nation. I guarantee you that service members from other states are saying, "I'd take that." So this is the greatest opportunity I've ever had. We will provide the greatest military force possible to the citizens of the state and the nation.

Borunda: What are some examples or highlights from your past to give us an idea of where you came from? You attended the Air Force Academy, correct?

TAG: I did attend the academy so I guess the best thing I can tell you to make it military and civilian centric is this; I am not a fighter pilot or an Air Force officer, I am a professional military officer first. That is my primary duty. I'm a military officer charged with the duties of adjutant general and the director of DEMA -- dual hatted, with civilian and military responsibilities; that is my first and foremost requirement. Second, it is true that I am from the Air Force component so that's my background and I'm proud of my Air Force heritage. I love everything about the Air Force, but in the joint environment in which we operate, I have no preference for one component over any other within the agency that I manage for Governor Jan Brewer. Third, I know what its like to be in the military. I'm qualified as a fighter pilot and have flown in combat. I've deployed and understand what that entails so I have a passion for the Soldiers and Airmen who deploy. I try to ensure that we meet their needs in preparation for that event, then take care of them, and provide them with proper support and access to resources post deployment.

Borunda: It's well known among Airmen who have served under your command that you have a simple, yet dynamic approach to leadership. Can you please explain?

TAG: There are two rules for service as a member of the Department of Emergency and Military Affairs. Whether you're in the Army component, the Air component, or the ADEM (Arizona Division of Emergency Management) component, I need you to be able to tell me the truth and give me your best effort. That is a distillation of the core values from any of our components, emergency management, Army and Air, and if you find yourself in a situation where you cannot follow those rules, you cannot remain a member of the organization. When you hear those rules they sound very simple, but their application can be complicated. It's not difficult for Soldiers and Airmen to figure out what the rules demand of them, but sometimes our judgment is clouded by the fact that we are together for long periods of time in the Guard. Unfortunately, when we lose our way and we can no longer tell each other the truth or give our best effort then good order and discipline fails. We need an organization that understands that there will be firm application of this standard, and there will be no tolerance for conduct that degrades good order and discipline. I'll use sexual assault or harassment as an example. There is no tolerance. You cannot look me in the eye and tell me that assaulting, harassing, or creating a hostile environment for your peers makes you more lethal, more capable, or more talented at doing your mission. Nor can you tell me that's your best effort. The leaders of this organization at every level need to hold one another accountable and say that we know very clearly that it will not be tolerated. We also need them to know that in this structure, if you're able to tell the truth and give your best effort, you will be great because this is the best team that I have ever been a part of, and every Soldier, Airman and civilian in this agency has greatness in them. If we can all apply that standard there will be no leadership failures. If we cannot apply that standard we will fail as a team. There are no bad Soldiers or Airmen, only bad leaders. It starts with me and goes all the way down to the newest squad leader. One thing that gets cloudy in a military organization is how you manage a competitive balance between Army and Air, or military and civilian, or fulltime and part-time, or infantry guys and transportation guys. The truth is, it is the duty of leaders to manage that competitive balance and not let it get to the point where it degrades good order and discipline and under cuts morale.

Borunda: How do we find that balance, Sir?

TAG: We continue to allow them to strive to find greatness in their area, but never ever allow them to forget this -- none of us is more, or less, important than any other member of the organization. Each of us has a different set of authorities, duties and responsibilities. You can say, "Sir, you're the adjutant general." That's right, I have a different set of authorities, duties and responsibilities than you do, but I am no more, or less, valuable to the team. The days of entitlement are over. Command is a privilege, not a right. Leadership is a duty requirement. They are not the same thing. Service is not about, "It's my turn," "I thought I was next." If you follow the rules you will be allowed to run in the race fairly. It doesn't matter what your race or gender is, your duty status, or your religious preference -- you can demand to run in the race fairly, and you can demand no more than that. My philosophy is to be firm. In a nutshell, my highest duty is to protect our people, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I do that in a myriad of ways; force protection, access to total force teams, pay, advocacy agencies and the rest. I cannot protect members of our organization if I cannot administer discipline. Part of protecting them means applying a common standard, and there are times when members will face consequences. That discipline is intended to reform, retrain, reeducate, recondition and sometimes remove from the ranks. Then, every Airman, Soldier, and civilian will say they understand a common standard is being applied.

Borunda: What are some of the challenges you foresee moving forward?

TAG: The emergent challenge is a cultural change within our organization. We are going to spend a year getting back to the basics; applying standards of dress and appearance, basic protocol, basic rank structure, establishing clear chains of command, issuing proper performance evaluations and the like. By the end of a year I'm certain that the entire organization will embrace a resurgence of these basic and vital military practices. We will be accountable in every way on and off duty. With this focus on cultural change we then run our missions, all of our missions, and do them bigger, faster, stronger and more capable than ever before.

Borunda: Is there anything else you'd like to add sir?

TAG: I'd like to say thank you for your service. I appreciate that it is not easy to be a citizen Soldier or Airman, and your dedication to service is appreciated by your fellow Arizonans.