Finding Resilient Leaders

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Michael Hong
  • 514th Air Mobility Wing
Early Friday morning, a small two-vehicle convoy of Reserve Citizen Airmen briskly navigated the New Jersey Turnpike into downtown New York City. Departing from the 514th Air Mobility Wing, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., they were privileged to have among them Lt. Gen. Richard W. Scobee, the commander of Air Force Reserve Command.

Normally, a business visit to the heavily traversed roads and densely packed cityscape of the Big Apple requires a high degree of preparation and planning. Thankfully, among the entourage of Reserve Citizen Airmen was Lt. Col. Michael Gibbs, commander of the 514th Security Forces Squadron and New York City Police Department captain currently assigned to the 110th Precinct in Queens, N.Y.

“I need leaders who know how to take smart risks,” said Scobee. “They need to make decisions when there is a lack of guidance.”

One of the reasons Scobee visited the Freedom Wing was to emphasize his vision and mission priorities to the Airmen in the 514th AMW. Among those priorities, the development of resilient leaders. 


Resilient leaders can be described as those who combine emotional intellect with the innate characteristics required to win in future operating environments.

“Gibbs is exactly what we are looking for in a resilient leader, he is on the right track,” said Scobee.  “Being a captain in the NYPD and being a defender in our security forces, he has that breadth of experience. We can plug him in, down range, in combat situations and he’s going to know how to react and how to take care of his Airmen.”

In the beginning of December, the Air Force Reserve Command set out to recognize the NYPD for their support to the Air Force Reserve. Through coordination with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, Gibbs was able to nominate James P. O’Neill, NYC police commissioner, for the Patriot Award in time for Scobee's visit. The signing of the ESGR’s Statement of Support also further solidified our cooperation with the NYPD.


“Police Commissioner O’Neill is a steadfast, longtime and vocal supporter of the hundreds of men and women employed by the NYPD who serve within all branches of the National Guard and Reserve Forces,” said Gibbs. “O’Neill is a stellar example of a civilian employer who fully and completely supports those individuals who choose to serve their nation and is most deserving of this honor.” 


Furthermore, O'Neill pushes to recognize police officers serving on long-term military orders in department publications; to send care packages to deployed members in his employ; to personally thank the members who return from deployment to resume their duties in the NYPD; and to ensure that the memory of those killed in the line of duty is not forgotten.


"It is his unwavering support for the families of the fallen officers, who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving overseas since 9/11, that has endeared him, myself and many others in the force," said Gibbs. "The three members of the NYPD--detective 1st grade John Lemm, police officer Dean Taylor and police officer James McNaughton--who were killed in the line of duty while deployed are often topics of discussion when O'Neill speaks to military related functions."


More than 20 percent of the Freedom Wing’s members serve in some capacity as a first responder in NYC. Scobee wanted to acknowledge this unique dynamic, and the importance of cooperation between Airmen and their employers, by being present as O’Neill received the award on Jan. 11, 2019, in the office of the New York City Police commissioner.

Even with the challenges of coordinating the local security for a national dignitary in NYC, Gibbs did not want to waste the opportunity to showcase The National September 11 Memorial & Museum during the visit. With a tight itinerary, Gibbs was able to coordinate the ESGR award event while also planning to visit the 9/11 memorial.

“Although the terrorist attacks occurred 18 years ago, to many New Yorker's, myself included, that day is etched into my memory,” said Gibbs.


Meeting objectives is a necessity but in every decision a resilient leader needs to be able to take smart risks. Even if it means to take care of Reserve Citizen Airmen, inclusive of the commander of the AFRC, by taking the time to offer an introspective look into the heritage of the current forces--many of whom have been significantly impacted by the events which occurred on 9/11.