Badges of Honor

"I told that varied group of Airmen I expected them to show titanic levels of ‘H.E.A.R.T.’—Honesty, Excellence, Accountability, Respect, and Teamwork. These tenets were the cornerstone of my command philosophy."

This volume presents the professional leadership stories of fourteen different authors, all of whom teach in the U.S. Air Force's Leader Development Course (LDC). As a different LDC teacher/officer writes each chapter, the particulars of the fourteen narratives range in diversity as well as personal writing style. Yet each complements the other, resulting in a wide-ranging autobiographical account of life and leadership in the Air Force. Each officer's chapter ends with that particular author's biography and military headshot, as well as several "leadership lessons," again in the words of the featured service member, reflective of their unique experiences in military leadership. Finally, Hinck includes a blank section wherein the reader is encouraged to "contribute to the work" by writing a little about one's own story.

Though focusing on leadership lessons drawn specifically from the experiences of the featured Air Force officers, a great deal of the messages shared—and indeed the varied swath of human storytelling offered within these pages—could certainly find wide appeal to readers in any field or organization. Because the unique stories of the officers are written first and foremost by individual human beings—with all of the headache, heartache, life, loss, and laughter that necessarily accompanies such authentic autobiographical material—one need not have a strong bent toward military leadership to appreciate and be moved by the thoughtful narratives. Within these stories, a range of human emotions and predicaments are shown. Instruction in the LDC, whose mission is to "inspire and equip air and space professionals to thrive on the command team," is the common denominator for each of these officers. Their leadership stories make for an inspiring and intriguing read.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

U.S. Review of Books - Review by Jonsh Meyer

Badges of Honor: Stories of the Head, Heart, and Hand is compiled by an Assistant Professor of Leadership for the USAF's Air University, and gathers examples of leaders, decision-making processes, and how to cultivate strength and honor during the process. It should be given to any aspiring leader in any discipline, as it presents powerful examples of fellow leaders who cultivated not just a process, but a perspective about what highly effective leadership means.

The collection begins with the note that these contributors write their own chapters and reflections. This diverse set of experiences and voices adds to a survey that takes no singular route in explaining and exploring examples of leadership, but follows the process of how these individuals rose under and overcame different circumstances to stand out from the crowd.

The book is constructed so that readers can begin anywhere within it, to receive snippets of wisdom. This gives even the busiest reader or shortest attention span an accessible gathering of influential writings.

Badges of Honor opens, appropriately, by reinforcing the notion that the reader, too, can write about their own leadership experience and inspiration, presenting a reinforcing discussion by Martha J. Sasnett, "Everyone Has A Story." When Martha took command of 42d Force Support Squadron in January 2015, she admitted she had her work cut out for her.

How she met these challenges and cultivated a special brand of leadership with a squadron already demoralized and suspicious of any senior leader makes for eye-opening insights into the process of fostering shared objectives even when a group seemingly eschews guidance.

Issues of guidance and decision-making undergo inspection in a very different way in "God Plants a Garden" by Demetrius N. Booth, who explores family and religious connections, and the challenge of loving without condition and despite all odds.

Each story comes from a very different world. Each shines with examples of honor, value, struggle, and achievement, and each provides another light that points out the various ways in which true leadership is cultivated. Leadership rests on not only a solid game plan, but thoughtful, flexible approaches to life and others.

The inclusion of experiences from all walks of life and between disparate people proves that leaders need not be associated with business or military circles alone, nor even come from a shared foundation of educational expertise.

Leaders emerge from the hearts and minds of thoughtful, responsive, savvy individuals. And, as the book encourages, the reader can be one of them.

That's why it's important that Badges of Honor not be limited to military, business, or self-help shelves alone, but should appear as a choice for discussion groups or anyone strong in understanding how honor and leadership are built, and how they walk hand in hand to lead self and others to better lives and understanding.

Midwest Book Reviews - Review by Diane Donovan

These stories offer riveting examples of challenges faced by leaders of all organizations - big, small, military, non-military, US or international - and the principled way these stellar leaders overcame them. As I read their narratives I was inextricably drawn into my own experiences and graded their reactions against my own; I often found myself deficient in comparison. The leadership lessons they offer at the conclusion of their stories are gold.  Some of them I'd already learned (the hard way); there are many others which will make me a better leader in the future.  

Lieutenant General Noel T (Tom) Jones (USAF Ret) - Former Vice Commander of US Air Forces in Europe and Africa

Highs and lows, joy and sorrow, and so much more. Powerful stories, both individually and collectively, about learning to lead, taking a stand, and making a difference. A wonderful primer for aspiring leaders. Badges of Honor reinforced my belief that the best leaders bring out the best in others and create an environment where their teams can succeed.

Maj Gen (Retired) Theresa C. Carter, DBA, PE

A powerful and moving read. The honesty and vulnerability present in these deeply personal stories invite you to immerse yourself in the authors’ struggles, mistakes, laughs, and victories.  If “leadership” is indeed a contact sport that can have life-altering consequences, what better way to think through what you will do in your own crucible moments than to have learned from leaders who are willing to share their stories?

Colonel (Retired) Ken "Tot" Tatum, AD-25, DAF - Director of Operations (A3), Air University (AU)

Stories in this book are indeed powerful. But this book goes deeper than the personal story. Itreveals leadership lessons from the research and teachings of US Air Force leaders who arevulnerable in sharing their personal experiences for the benefit of all whom they teach andserve for the greater good. It not only inspires, it enriches our understanding of leadership.

Cynthia Cherrey - President, International Leadership Association

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