Diving down the Commander’s Call Rabbit Hole

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BLUF – If you dread your own Commander’s Call, chances are your squadron does as well. Tailor them to your personality and keep things purposeful and lively.

As a young officer, I had mixed feelings about commander’s calls. Honestly, they were just boring. Hearing the decoration citations were fine, as they were a mix of those going and those joining the team. I actually paid attention to what was being said because I wanted to know what experiences others had just in case I needed their advice on something my team was working. But after that, most commander’s calls were a combination of awkward acts of public speaking that potentially could’ve been shared via email and delivered the same effect. Needless to say, I am very particular about my commander’s calls and how they are run. I value and respect the time of my teammates, and I want them to actually look forward to the event. Here is the general framework that is consistently repeated at the end of the every month (or as close as we can get):

  1. Theme – I always have an overall purpose of each commander’s call, usually based on the upcoming calendar of events or a formative event such as a DEOCS survey. I have separate discussions with everyone involved to ensure the commander’s call is run smoothly, but I don’t micromanage it. If something is weird or awkward, I just roll with it. Running a commander’s call event is a responsibility passed around the squadron, and I use it as low-threat leadership opportunity to see how people approach the challenge.
  2. Intro – Sometimes I use intro music, sometimes I don’t. It depends on the overall theme of the commander’s call. There was one time where Protocol left their DV red carpet in the building, and I rolled it out as part of my intro. If I had flower petals like Coming to America, I would’ve used them to. Point being, the intro doesn’t have to be the usual stuffy room tench-hut version.
  3. Decorations – Since everyone in the room is at attention, we immediately jump into reading the citations. We try really hard to stick to “pin ’em where you win ’em”, to the point where we may read citations that haven’t been officially signed yet (they are approved and being routed though). This part isn’t too hard, but the emcee should probably read through the citation text once or twice to not get stuck on difficult words.
  4. Promotions – At our wing, the enlisted promotion ceremony has been delegated down to the squadron level. At first I thought it was weird, only because I was used to the large wing-level ceremonies for the majority of my career. But I honestly think this is a much better, intimate version. We retained the “tacking of the stripes”, although I’m not sure how this will works with OCPs. We still invite tackers (family members, supervisor, peers) to punch the new stripes on. Some traditions need to stay simple, and this is one of them.
  5. Cake Break – Since most promotion ceremonies involve a celebratory social event, we included this as a deliberate break in our commander’s call. The Top 3 purchases a sheet cake and beverages (usually juice) and we hang out and socialize for a maximum of 10 minutes. This social time was crucial to increasing the social time we spend as a squadron. The decorations and promotions are considered the “business” of the commander’s call, so having the cake break serve as a pivot point to hang out and socialize is important for team building dynamics.
  6. Technician of the Month & Top 3 – The Top 3 runs the Technician of the Month program and announces the month’s winner. Usually the SNCO of the work center gets up and doesn’t read the award package, but rather provides their own synopsis of the winner. This delivery is way more natural and isn’t as stiff as reading a citation. Also, this serves as a public recognition of the hard work that goes around the squadron that teammates may not know about. With a squadron spread out amongst several buildings, the sharing of positive stories is important to consistent team building. After the presentation, the Top 3 delivers their update on upcoming mentoring or social events, both usually free.
  7. Booster Club – I purposefully tell the Booster Club to use Commander’s Call as a platform to garner interest or action from the squadron since we are all gathered in one place. When we took pre-orders for morale shirts, we had the Booster Club accept payments immediately after. If we are selling holiday party tickets, we have the available for purchase right after. And the Booster Club uses a Square credit/debit card reader, making it even easier to influence/shake down members to take action.
  8. Hail and Farewell – Admittedly we have work to do in this department, but in general the Flight Commanders are charged with announcing any departing members and welcoming any new members. I feel like I need to standardize the info. For departing members: current work center, where they are departing to, any planned going away event (which is also where mementos are presented). For new members: hometown, previous base, assigned work center. This also serves as purposeful platform for our Flight Commander’s to have public face time and recognize changes in their flight. Consistent presence of our Flight Commanders is important for the squadron, as they are the first level of command everyone works with.
  9. First Sergeant and Chief comments (two separate events) – Straight forward. We usually chat about what topics are appropriate for each, both in things they want to talk about and things I feel are appropriate for their respective position. They usually don’t use slides, but that’s based on their personality. I provide inputs, but this time is generally theirs to shape and use accordingly.
  10. Commander’s comments – If I’ve shaped everything right, this should be at the 40 minute mark and I have the remaining 20 minutes to talk. I don’t necessarily want to talk for 20 minutes, but the point is to keep the event to under one hour. I personally like using slides, but they aren’t the usual bullet-type of slides. I always have a theme that usually something that has nothing to do with what I want the audience to remember. For example, the theme this month was to talk about Trust being the root of an effective team, so the intro slide was “The One about Roots”. I then led the discussion of what this wasn’t about: plant roots, the Roots mini-series, or the Roots hip-hop group. Point being is I use attention steps based on humor to lead into my comments. Delivery is super important, and I weave in jokes or smack-talking to keep the audience engaged. I pay attention to body language and sometimes call out people who I think are falling asleep. After delivering my message, my second to last slide is the lone bullet slide of upcoming events that lists the important things coming up: work related exercises, morale/social events, DV visits, etc. This serves as a good lash up of the call and offers me the opportunity to foot stomp each event as needed. And my last slide is a dad joke. Every time. Usually a bad one (aren’t they all?). I do this for consistency and as a signal that we are finally done. One last call for saved rounds for the audience (no forced “ask me three questions for the commander”, I’ve always disliked those), then we’re done.

Let me know if you’re interested in seeing one of my slide decks, more than happy to share!

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