LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas—Chief Master Sgt. Robert L. Zackery III, 47th Flying Training Wing command chief master sergeant, is one of Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas’, newest leaders, and he is excited to be working with the members of Team XL.
Being a Tactical Air Control Party (TAC-P), and having deployed and lived with the U.S. Army, U.S Navy and coalition countries, Zackery brings a diverse array of combat, joint and international experience to the table for the 47th Flying Training Wing.
From Chattanooga, Tennessee, Zackery has served in the Air Force nearly 23 years, gathering numerous values as well as experience during that time. Summing up what Zackery stands for is performance, hard work, ownership and fairness. He is against ego, laziness, discrimination and incompetence.
“My focus and goal is to develop combat credible Airmen,” Zackery said. “To parallel this, I want to build aggressive, servant leaders. Aggressive leaders are leaders willing to take calculated risk, based on judgement and knowledge, to complete the mission and take care of their Airmen. Servant leaders aren’t self-serving; they work for the betterment of others.”
Some of the best leaders Zackery knew from his time in the Air Force taught him through example. The leaders he looked up to led aggressively, not waiting for permission to be successful.
“We need to identify problems and solve those problems, not pass them along.” Zackery said. “An aggressive, servant leader has the ability to lead, and the aggressiveness comes from knowledge, reflection and background with our skill set. To them, it’s not about getting things done so they can have a good officer performance record or enlisted performance record. They do their part to prepare their Airmen for combat and to complete their mission—they’re preparing others to be future leaders who will replace them.”
Along with building aggressive servant leaders, Zackery hopes to develop lethal warriors. To him, the foundation of becoming a lethal warrior is education of self; understanding the enemy, the Department of Defense’s weapon systems and capabilities and a deeper understanding of our mission. He explains how being combat credible is about fitting into the bigger picture beyond what must be done on a day-to-day basis.
“We must operationalize our wing,” he said. “We need to get out of the training-only mindset and become and stay relevant to the international environment. We’re here to train pilots, but we have to think beyond our tour here at Laughlin and focus on the big picture. When I say operationalize the base, I want us to focus on our combat-related skills and mindset, not solely our Air Force Specialty Code.”
Another hot topic high on Zackery’s list of priorities is the quality of life of all Airmen—enlisted, officers and civilians. Even so, he believes it is not the mission. Mission accomplishment is the reason quality of life is important, and so the mission comes first.
“I don’t want people to think it’s all about quality of life—yes, how we feel when we go home is important, but it’s not the most important thing,” Zackery said. “No one cares if everyone has a swimming pool in their back yard or if our Airmen have a 2,000 ft. dorm if we lose our competitive edge or the war.”
Zackery wants to help prepare Team XL for the challenges the future holds. He also wants Airmen to know he is here to “carry water” for them by improving quality of life, training and development opportunities to fuel the mission.