The Role of Culture and Leadership in the United States Air Force
Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines culture as “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization” and leadership as “the act or an instance of leading.” The United States Air Force, like any other large organization, relies on leadership at all levels to effectively operate its mission. Further, the United States Air Force since it’s inception in 1947 has had a continuously evolving set of cultures unique to the organization. Joining these two concepts together has directly lead to the United States Air Force being held as the “Best Air Force in the World.”
The United States Air Force began developing its own unique culture well before it was even established. The United States Army Air Corps, the forerunner of the United States Air Force, was established in 1926. This organization started many of the time honored traditions now associated with the United States Air Force (Beyland, 2011) . Many of the current units within the United States Air Force trace their units lineage back to units created under the United States Army Air Corps and still use organizational logos that identify them with those early units. This close association with early units and a keen interest in maintaining the stories of early military aviation pioneers (Beyland, 2011), show how the art of organization story telling (George & Jones, 2011) has shaped the culture of the United States Air Force as a whole.
Members of the United States Air Force speak what many outside of the organization can see as a foreign language. Sentences sprinkled liberally with initial-isms and military jargon can lead to message confusion to those not indoctrinated. It is not unusual to see a sentence like “You have the stick, need EPR NLT COB today.” This is virtually unintelligible to those outside of the organization, but within the United States Air Force the message is clear, “This is your task, they need the Enlisted Performance Report, no later than the close of business today.”
Further reinforcing the concept of a unique culture, the United States Air Force has a deeply engrained system of artifacts (Vermillion, 1996). Airmen assigned to the United States Air Force wear distinctive uniforms that convey membership in the organization as well as facts about the individual. From their rank within the organization via insignias, their functions via occupational badges to their past duty locations and accolades in the form of ribbons on their chest, just merely seeing the individual in uniform will tell you much about the person (Beyland, 2011). The United States Air Force’s artifacts do not stop there, even something as simple as what colors building are painted is unique to the service. Regardless of location, most permanent building are painted a shade of brown colloquially known as “Creech brown” after General Wilbur Creech who first...