Meet your commander: 23rd Maintenance Group

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Rachel Coates
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

How well do you know your leaders? Many Airmen may know their commander’s name, but do they know who their commanders truly are?

Airmen must keep track of a variety of requirements and studying their leader sometimes isn’t on the top of the to-do list. So, the Flying Tiger’s Public Affairs team sat down with each group commander to learn about their history, beliefs and life beyond their career in the U.S. Air Force.

This time, the 23rd Maintenance Group commander, Col. Bobby Buckner, shared his vision of putting people first, gave advice to Airmen and talked about the hobbies he enjoys doing with his family.

Q1: How has your past military experience shaped how you lead here as the 23rd MXG commander?

A1: The people that I’ve worked for (over the years) really cared about the Airmen and the mission and that’s something that really stuck with me my entire career. Sometimes there’s the great debate: Mission First or People First, and I will say, with me, I’m not in the maintenance business, I’ve always been in the people business and when you take care of the people, you really see the mission easily gets accomplished and they work so hard for you.

I’ve been lucky. I’ve had a lot of chiefs, senior master sergeants and staff sergeants that mentored me when I was enlisted and then the same when I became a young lieutenant. They showed me the importance of taking care of your folks and fighting for them and making sure they have what they need, and if they do, this tough business of aircraft maintenance runs very smoothly.

Q2: If you’ve been at Moody before, do you think that your time here helped impact the way you lead?

A2: I was here for three years as the 23rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Commander and two key things stand out impacting how I lead. One, I got to know Mr. Parker Greene and “The Ever So Lovely” Dr. Lucy Greene and several of the Valdosta leaders that constantly support Moody AFB - they embody service-before-self and I am grateful to them. My time at Moody instilled in me a priority to work with our local communities no matter where you are because their support is vital to our success. The bond between base and community is so strong and I love that partnership!

The second impact is the spirit of the Flying Tigers. This is especially true when you look back at the maintainers that were tied to that historic unit. They were deployed in China and faced parts, tools, and personnel challenges. Despite all of this, they accomplished the mission and had a major impact on the war. Today, we face many of the same challenges but when things get tough, we cannot stop moving forward, that Flying Tiger Spirit should follow all of us after we leave this base, and it has stuck with me since the first time I saw those shark teeth on our aircraft and now back as a group level commander.

Q3: What do you think you have brought to the mission?

A3: Over the past few years, the Air Force has really embraced innovation, technology and doing things differently and that pairs up with my passion. Normally when I get to a base, I’m excited to see how we can do something safer, faster and less expensive. I’m constantly asking myself, what can I provide to my maintainers to do the job much more efficiently and I think this spirit of innovation in the Air Force is one of those things that makes us a leading branch in all of our military. I think the Air Force has always had that spirit of thinking outside the box – we’re a little rebellious when it comes to doing things differently, so I’m working hard to continue to bring that to our maintenance community to say “look, we have got to change to do things faster and smarter.”

Q4: What advice would you give Airmen who are currently stationed at Moody for their future career/s?

A4: I could give a lot of advice considering I’ve been in the military for 30 years and I’m over 50 years old, but the first thing I’d say is, relax a little bit and have fun with your career. Do not come to work every day with the attitude of ‘things would be better if I was somewhere else.’ Come in every day, be excited about the job and have fun. I will say, a guy like me who has played the long game in the military, I’ve been fortunate to work with people that I enjoyed spending time with on the job and outside of work – I really enjoyed the comradery.

My early beginnings were with ammo and during those times, we’d have get-togethers and BBQ’s – we always took care of each other. I can’t express enough that one day you’ll miss that when you get out.

Secondly, I always say you’ll be set up for success if you like the military – it will be an incredible career. You’ll have great benefits, you can travel and see new things … but, if you come in and say I don’t think the military career is for me, it’s still going to set you up for an amazing future. I tell my young Airmen, work hard and be the best at your job, and you’ll walk out the door with educational benefits and a great resume. You’ll learn a lot of skills that employers are looking for on the outside.

Q5: How important is family to you, and what will you do to inspire your team to value work/life balance?

A5: Take the time with your family and friends. Maybe I didn’t learn this as soon as I should have in my career, but if there’s a kid event or your wife or husband has something going on, take the time to go and attend those things. When you look back, you’ll be glad you went to that stuff. Don’t get caught up working long days and nights … I know we do that sometimes. I’ve been deployed a lot and I had a great chaplain tell me “When you’re deployed, you’re deployed, but when you’re home, be the best father and/or husband you can be,” and I think that advice has always held true.

Q6: What advice would you give yourself as a young Airman/Officer?

A6: My advice to Airman Basic Buckner is to recognize you’re a part of something bigger than yourself. If you look at the men and women you work with every day, you’ll see that you’re on an incredible team and be thankful that you can associate with that community. I think at first I didn’t recognize that as a young Airman, but once I became an NCO and then commissioned, I really started being thankful for what I was a part of. It’s that tough maintenance community and that group of people that always come together and get these tough jobs done and that’s something I’ll carry with me my entire career.

Q7: What do you do outside of work? What are your hobbies?

A7: Well, my family and I are definitely travel junkies. If we can get on a plane and go somewhere, eat some different foods, sight-see, buy some bad souvenirs, we’re all in for that! We love tennis, I know that sounds funny, but me, my wife and kids absolutely love tennis and a lot of times you can find me on the base tennis courts in the evening after work. Also, anything bicycles – I kind of got hooked on mountain biking when I was at Davis Monthan (Air Force Base) and I took that to Germany with a lot of good trails and logging roads. If it has two wheels and peddles, I absolutely love it and if I can just get out and ride a bike through the woods, that’s something I absolutely love. Traveling, tennis and riding a bicycle – sounds like a good Saturday for me!