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Stonewall
Salty & Seasoned Contributor

Posts: 4,036

« on: September 19, 2019, 04:20:03 PM »

Of my 32 years in CAP, 2/3 of that time has been in a wing that was too small for groups.  As a cadet in Florida back in the late 80s, I was in Group II but couldn’t have given you the name of anyone outside of my squadron.

Curious to know what everyone’s thoughts are (outside of CAP 20-1) as far as expectations of a group commander. Any “I wish our Group CC did this” or “I wish our Group CC would stop doing that” thoughts you’d like to share? Any best practices? Group level positions that MUST be filled?

I recently applied for Group CC and while I don’t know whether or not I’ll get it, I figured I’d reach out and see what people have to say.
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Eclipse
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« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2019, 04:50:58 PM »

Frankly I'd just as soon as they went away. (Group staff, CC, CD, multiple times).

In theory they are supposed to reduce the span of control, but between lack of manpower,
"you can't make me", and people going VFR direct to and from Wing because people
do that sort of thing, it can be very difficult to feel like you're accomplishing anything
but checking boxes and being the "this is your problem" guy when things go sideways.

If you're knowledgeable on the program, and press people to observe the chain and
stay in their lane, you can be effective, but it takes a lot of will and effort to maintain
that constant walk against the wind.

Perfect example is someone who used to be very active here.

He took over a Group with a number of units that were either failing or troubled, and
inherited a few people on his staff who thought they were "Co-commander".  The types
that not only disagree in private, but challenge decisions made in front of subordinates.

Lots of "you can't make me" "I'll tell dad", etc., etc.

He spent the better part of two+ years adjusting attitudes, getting people to toe the line,
and basically fixed the major issues.

The Wing CC randomly visited his area one night, and without even asking the Group CC
whether he had an opinion or had made other decisions, etc., essentially undid 2 years of
work in about 40 minutes.

Group CC left CAP with a bad taste shortly thereafter, and without his being involved,
the issues returned.  That Group was dissolved not too long after that to try and spread the
fun around.

I had a great time as Group CC as it gave me a lot of access, and multiple ways to
move things forward, but I also had a lot of grief for the reasons above.

There's also a pretty inconsistent understanding about what is supposed to be inspected during an SUI.

As to required positions, it's the same as any other charter, but if you expect to get anything done,
you need knowledgeable experienced people doing it full time, not ADY, and then you have to walk the
line of "how much is intrusive?"

As a unit CC, I need the autonomy to run my unit as I see fit, but as a Group CC I need to know
that my "intent" is being followed.

Regardless, don't show up unannounced, that goes double for your staff.

Don't double billet people, or give them jobs at multiple echelons (especially the same job),
and your subordinate CC's should not hold any other jobs anywhere else.  CC is a full-time job.

And make sure your staff understands that the only CC is you, and any hairbrained "policies" need to
be run by you first.
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Stonewall
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« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2019, 05:18:41 PM »

FWIW I haven’t heard or experienced anything negative as far as groups and group commanders go in my current wing. If there’s drama at a group level in my wing, I am out of the loop.
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TheSkyHornet
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« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2019, 05:49:51 PM »

There's always drama in our wing...

For the most part, I think groups in our wing have been fairly benign until somewhat just recently.

If you look at CAPR 20-1, and go to the organization structure and job descriptions of nearly all the group-level personnel, we should see a Group Commander, Safety Officer, Operations Officer, Aerospace Education Officer, Professional Development Officer, Cadet Programs Officer, Public Affairs Officer, etc...

These duties are not solely there to man the span of control, but to offer an additional layer of guidance to the subordinate units in those respective program areas.

Looking at the Group Commander duties, the first "real duty" aside from exercising command is to establish goals and programs and promote their objectives. The Group Commander should be outline a list of desired accomplishments and work with his/her staff to coordinate with the squadrons to succeed in those accomplishments.

Compare some of the group-level duties to the Squadron-level duties, and you'll see essentially matching language. But what you need to take away is where that person falls in as a task coordinator versus an advisor/coordinator for the matching squadron role. For example: all Professional Development Officers have the duty to "Help ensure that CAP provides the best quality training with sufficient availability to support CAP's missions." At the squadron level, you're not going to be hosting SLS. But you can encourage senior members to get involved as instructors for both their own professional development benefit and that of others. At the group level, I would expect to see the Group PDO reaching out to find out the training needs of the squadrons and working to set up group-level training if possible. And the Group PDO should be mentoring the Squadron PDO.

There is a bit of a disconnect in our wing right now that persons at the squadron level feel that Wing should should be hosting professional development training. According to Wing HQ, that's not the case. It is expected that the groups should be setting up professional development training to support more localized needs. Now, that's not an official policy nor is it a directive; but that's been the consensus in discussions at the Wing level. How well it has been communicated and coordinated is beyond me.

I've seen groups in our wing focus heavily on O-Flights and SAREXs, but not greatly on professional development (I think we're starting to see more of it pop up now). Rarely have I seen groups host cadet activities (although we just had one a few weekends ago). I'm not sure I really know of any group staff officers that have worked with and mentored squadron staff officers. Virtually every squadron staff officer I've talked to outside of my home unit comes back with either "I never hear from my Group ________ (whatever)" or "I don't know if we have one...it used to be _______ (whoever)."

Resource management in our wing is also a toughie. I can't speak for other wings. But we have a real difficulty filling rosters the echelons above squadrons, or at least filling them with personnel that perform their job as directed/described in 20-1. This is a difficulty in both volunteerism and culture. But there are a number of people volunteering at more than one echelon that have a very difficult time committing to both. Finding the manpower is challenging. Finding someone who will actually execute and not just hold the position is even more challenging.

Our group seems to be progressing well into trying to be more group-outreaching. We have a professional development weekend coming up to offer SLS, CLC, and TLC, plus a cadet cyber activity. As mentioned before, we just came out of a cadet training weekend. We also have a newly active CAC up and running. How long does the honeymoon last? No idea. Most people come out of the gate strong and then lose momentum as time goes on. I think the best course of action right now is to appreciate those that stepped up, and make them feel appreciated (not just "It's your job; why should I say thanks").


Now to close it out—

Do I think our wing needs groups? No, I don't. But we're starting to see groups step up to take on what was formally ("always done that way") Wing's responsibility. If groups can step up and actually run local programs and mentor local staffs, I think they can be successful. Will they? I'm iffy.
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PHall
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Posts: 6,690

« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2019, 05:51:22 PM »

Groups are needed if you're a wing that has a lot of territory and units to cover. Places where span of control is a very real and physical thing.
Places like California, Texas, Florida and New York.

Just like anything else they have their purpose.
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Holding Pattern
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Posts: 1,492
Unit: Victory

« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2019, 06:18:49 PM »

Frankly I'd just as soon as they went away. (Group staff, CC, CD, multiple times).

In theory they are supposed to reduce the span of control, but between lack of manpower,
"you can't make me", and people going VFR direct to and from Wing because people
do that sort of thing, it can be very difficult to feel like you're accomplishing anything
but checking boxes and being the "this is your problem" guy when things go sideways.

If you're knowledgeable on the program, and press people to observe the chain and
stay in their lane, you can be effective, but it takes a lot of will and effort to maintain
that constant walk against the wind.

Perfect example is someone who used to be very active here.

He took over a Group with a number of units that were either failing or troubled, and
inherited a few people on his staff who thought they were "Co-commander".  The types
that not only disagree in private, but challenge decisions made in front of subordinates.

Lots of "you can't make me" "I'll tell dad", etc., etc.

He spent the better part of two+ years adjusting attitudes, getting people to toe the line,
and basically fixed the major issues.

The Wing CC randomly visited his area one night, and without even asking the Group CC
whether he had an opinion or had made other decisions, etc., essentially undid 2 years of
work in about 40 minutes.

Group CC left CAP with a bad taste shortly thereafter, and without his being involved,
the issues returned.  That Group was dissolved not too long after that to try and spread the
fun around.

I had a great time as Group CC as it gave me a lot of access, and multiple ways to
move things forward, but I also had a lot of grief for the reasons above.

There's also a pretty inconsistent understanding about what is supposed to be inspected during an SUI.

As to required positions, it's the same as any other charter, but if you expect to get anything done,
you need knowledgeable experienced people doing it full time, not ADY, and then you have to walk the
line of "how much is intrusive?"

As a unit CC, I need the autonomy to run my unit as I see fit, but as a Group CC I need to know
that my "intent" is being followed.

Regardless, don't show up unannounced, that goes double for your staff.

Don't double billet people, or give them jobs at multiple echelons (especially the same job),
and your subordinate CC's should not hold any other jobs anywhere else.  CC is a full-time job.

And make sure your staff understands that the only CC is you, and any hairbrained "policies" need to
be run by you first.

WOW. This is very close to what occurred in my AO a few years back.

Mark Twain was right. History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme!

:(
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Holding Pattern
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Posts: 1,492
Unit: Victory

« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2019, 06:21:00 PM »

Oh yeah, and in case it wasn't clear, I'm in the "burn the group command idea to the ground" camp.

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jeders
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Posts: 2,220

« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2019, 06:57:25 PM »

I'm definitely not in the "burn it to the ground" camp, at least not on this topic, but I can certainly understand those who are.

In my personal experience (however limited that may be with two squadron CC tours and currently serving on group staff), there are three types of group commander. The first type only steps in to facilitate the mission or the growth of the members. The second type is apathetic at best and ends up wasting people's time and resources because they don't care enough to get involved. Then you have the type that actively tries to stop some people from advancing because they want to build up their own personal fiefdom. I've seen all three and have witnessed the effects of each.

The best way to describe a good group commander, in my opinion, is as a filtering lens. Wing says, "do this NOW, or else," so you focus the message in order to help the squadrons understand why it's best for them to do the thing and also help them do the thing. Squadrons whine, moan, and gather their torches and pitchforks; so you go to wing and say, "hey boss, I'm getting some feedback about your new directive, can we talk?" You shouldn't be there to add additional burden or red tape to anyone, but rather to help relieve the burden both on the wing and the squadrons.

YMMV
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Eclipse
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Posts: 30,282

« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2019, 07:32:42 PM »

The best way to describe a good group commander, in my opinion, is as a filtering lens.

This.  x10

This has always been my primary feeling about Groups - a filter in both directions.

W: Wing says "This is happening so you will do x...".

G: No.  That's not what's happening, here's the data. (etc.) Or "We've already addressed."
(Also a single message to the units instead of 6+ conversations.

U: I need to know about x, I'll ask the DO.

G: No.  We've talked about this twice, and made the decision, leave wing alone.

The trouble is you have to get both sides to play by the rules, which is what often causes the drama in both directions.
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Eclipse
Too Much Free Time With Silver Clasp
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Posts: 30,282

« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2019, 07:39:50 PM »

Groups are needed if you're a wing that has a lot of territory and units to cover. Places where span of control is a very real and physical thing.
Places like California, Texas, Florida and New York.

Just like anything else they have their purpose.

Agreed.  One of the issues in my Wing is that the units are so spread out that it makes it near impossible
to effectively manage them in person.  There's been all sorts of shuffling the last few years, some
for this issue and some for other, less pleasant reasons, and no matter how you slice it, there
always seems to be one outlier that winds up mostly on their own.

Some of this is due to the traffic issues in the AORs, so it's not distance, its time.
Rush hour traffic means you have to either leave mid-afternoon, or show up at 9pm, and
if you have more then 4 units, you can't even visit them reasonably once a month without
burning yourself out.

When I first I first started as Group CC (in Mose's time), my grand plan was to use the
aircraft for visits.  I thought "What an great idea!  Members complain they don't see the aircraft,
it's a nice visual, and it makes it easier to get out there."

That lasted exactly one flight.  Between pilot and aircraft availability, the fact that with pre-flights
and post flights it's not actually much faster, and the realization that I had to pay for the gas somehow,
that kiboshed that idea, and was probably when I started to realize that GA aircraft aren't really
all they are cracked up to be, especially if you aren't a pilot.

That one flight was nice, though.
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TheSkyHornet
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Posts: 1,889

« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2019, 08:45:04 PM »

I'm definitely not in the "burn it to the ground" camp, at least not on this topic, but I can certainly understand those who are.

In my personal experience (however limited that may be with two squadron CC tours and currently serving on group staff), there are three types of group commander. The first type only steps in to facilitate the mission or the growth of the members. The second type is apathetic at best and ends up wasting people's time and resources because they don't care enough to get involved. Then you have the type that actively tries to stop some people from advancing because they want to build up their own personal fiefdom. I've seen all three and have witnessed the effects of each.

The best way to describe a good group commander, in my opinion, is as a filtering lens. Wing says, "do this NOW, or else," so you focus the message in order to help the squadrons understand why it's best for them to do the thing and also help them do the thing. Squadrons whine, moan, and gather their torches and pitchforks; so you go to wing and say, "hey boss, I'm getting some feedback about your new directive, can we talk?" You shouldn't be there to add additional burden or red tape to anyone, but rather to help relieve the burden both on the wing and the squadrons.

All of this.  :clap:

Eclipse is absolutely on point with his last two replies, particularly in how in-person visits can become difficult with the physical geographic size of the group. We have a hard enough time with group commanders who live just over an hour away from their farthest units. I couldn't imagine a group that requires a 4-hour drive.

What we have seen in our wing is a disconnect between unit, group, and wing instructions on the "How-Tos." Unit hears something from Wing. Unit acts on that instruction. Group says something different. Wing gets pissed. Unit tells Group. Group says no. Group asks Wing. Wing doesn't know what anyone is talking about. Unit talks to Wing. Wing says do it this way. Repeat.

A lot of hands in the cookie jar, and people don't want to produce OIs because it takes time and effort, and it has to go through the red tape process. So you get a lot of bad gouge and misinformation.

I'm in a really weird position being a CD in a squadron but on Wing support staff (in very similar roles; obviously different duties). So I'll be told "x" at a Wing staff meeting and convey that to the squadron. Group has no idea what I'm talking about. Information isn't flowing in both directions.

It's tough to have multiple layers where you're trying to provide everyone the most flexibility with the efficiency of a fluid, standardized program. You add more layers, it becomes more complex. If those layers hinder one another, then there are too many layers...or not enough proper management of them. And I think the latter is where a lot of groups are stuck.
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etodd
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« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2019, 11:27:25 PM »

How often are Wing Commanders having a Commanders Meeting, with top staff people and the Group Commanders? Ours seems to do it often. Maybe that is why everyone seems to be "on the same page".
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Eclipse
Too Much Free Time With Silver Clasp
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Posts: 30,282

« Reply #12 on: September 20, 2019, 12:24:59 AM »

How often are Wing Commanders having a Commanders Meeting, with top staff people and the Group Commanders? Ours seems to do it often. Maybe that is why everyone seems to be "on the same page".

As you've probably surmised, it depends on the wing, and really doesn't make much difference due to
the issues cited by myself and others.

People do what they will, regardless of what they have been told is a bad idea, good idea, or directive.
So "being on the same page" only goes as far as the listener is willing to accept that "the answer" is "The Answer".
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Fester
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Posts: 312

« Reply #13 on: September 20, 2019, 03:59:43 AM »

What I hope for from Group Staff is simple....

1. Be a filtering lens.
2. Respond in a timely manner.  Of course, I struggle with trying to develop the patience for this at ALL levels.
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