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It's a family tradition - living with 13 siblings teaches a lot about leadership

by Lt. Col. Dave Anderson
6th Services Squadron Commander
 

If you have the time, I could talk to you for hours about the family I grew up in, the13 kids (eight boys and five girls) and the military way of life we have known for more than 50 years. I will tell you it is the only way I know and it has been good to my father, my brothers and my sister, all who have embarked on military careers.

Seven of the 13 kids in the family found their way into the military. The four "Band of Brothers" have advanced to lieutenant colonel, with three currently serving as a services commander and two directors of operations at Little Rock AFB, Ark.

Jimmy, the Army colonel, spent his career in special forces and logistics, and retired in 2004, as the Inspector General at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill. Not too many families can say that.

My two older brothers, Steven and Billy retired from the Army as majors, and sister Judi died on active duty after 19 years of faithful and dedicated enlisted service in the Air Force.

Coming from a family with 13 kids teaches you teamwork, flexibility and requires a sense of humor - key ingredients that are critical to success in military life.

As the 6th Services Squadron commander I get the opportunity to command more than 600 military and civilian personnel. The MacDill Services Team recently garnered Air Mobility Command's best Officers and Enlisted Clubs, Marketing Program, Information, Ticket and Tour Operation, and Resource Management Flight. I have the greatest job in the military- taking care of the troops and their families here and around the world.

But sometimes, I envy my brothers in the flying world and the ones who served in the Army for their skills and opportunities they have had in their assignments around the globe. That's the great thing about the military-there are so many options for career growth, education, travel and most importantly, the chance to work with tremendous people-both military and civilian who make up the total force.

My identical twin brothers, Tommy (pilot) and Timmy (navigator) are both directors of operations at Little Rock. Timmy was recently selected to command one of the flying squadrons beginning in 2006. Tommy may also have the opportunity to command a squadron in a year or so after his time as a DO.

I knew from a young age that I was destined for military life. Military service was never forced on any of us, but the awesome capabilities and sense of family and community that military service provided for all of us made it an easy decision. We always had a roof over our head and food on the table (and it was a very big table).

My dad, the greatest man I know, retired from the Army in 1974. He served 24 years in the military, a tour in Korea, two tours in Vietnam, and was captain of the Golden Knights Army Parachuting Team. I am very proud of my dad, (and my mom who supported him and brought us all into this world), my family and all others who serve this great country in the military-whether for one day or 30-plus years. There are so many sacrifices troops and their families make for our freedom-frequent and long deployments, living in far and desolate lands, picking up and moving every 2-3 years, working in harms way and some who pay the ultimate sacrifice.

But ask anyone in uniform; they are proud of what they do and they do not do it for the pay or a medal pinned to their chest. They do it for you, for me, for the men and women who wore the uniform in generations past and for those who have yet to put the uniform on.

Several leadership lessons (key learning points handed down from my dad and mom) I have learned from growing up in "Anderson's Army" and some you may have heard from other sources are:

  • Good, better, best-never let it rest, 'til your good gets better, and your better gets best!
  • Optimism and a keeping a positive attitude are force multipliers - always look for the good in your situation and in your troops - you will find it
  • The 10 most important words in our language (that we should have learned by the time we hit Kindergarten are: "Yes Sir, No Sir, Yes Ma'am, No Ma'am, please and thanks!"
  • The "4Bs"-formula for a successful marriage (spoken to each Anderson before their wedding)
  • Have breakfast with your family (before the day gets too hectic).
  • Take care of the bank-live within your limits.
  • Take care of the bedroom-if you don't, someone else will.
  • Have balance in life; work hard, play hard, but don't do too much of either or something will suffer.
  • Play sports and see who does what on the friendly, but competitive fields of life. You can tell a great deal about people, their integrity, their energy and enthusiasm and most important, their ability to work/play well with others by playing sports with them. We always had the Andersons against the neighborhood, and not too many teams could stack up well against us.
  • Last, but not least, if your team does something great, give the credit to the team. If your team should stumble-you as the leader, should take responsibility.

The bottom line: life is good! Enjoy it! Take care of yourself (physically, mentally, and spiritually), take care of your family, take care of your troops and their families, and they will take care of you. I can only hope that with my family of four: wife- Sarah, and two wonderful children James, 6, and Rachel, 4, I can match the job done by my parents. I am doing my best. There are many other lessons learned from coming from a large family and growing up in the military, but my space was limited for this article. I'll be happy to share some great stories over a beverage of your choice or when you have a few minutes or hours.

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