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Build...Teach...LEAD: USAFWS takes new approach to generating leaders

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Col. Richard Coe, U.S. Air Force Weapons School commandant, discusses leadership principles with U.S. Air Force Weapons School students Feb. 22. The USAFWS provides the highest level of tactical training to future leaders in air, space and cyberspace and recently modified its syllabus to include formal leadership education and training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Col. Richard Coe, U.S. Air Force Weapons School commandant, discusses leadership principles with U.S. Air Force Weapons School students Feb. 22. The USAFWS provides the highest level of tactical training to future leaders in air, space and cyberspace and recently modified its syllabus to include formal leadership education and training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Simon Sinek, an internationally renowned speaker and author, goes through pre-flight procedures with Maj. Lawrence Sullivan, a U.S. Air Force Weapons School instructor assigned to the 16th Weapons Squadron, prior to an F-16 orientation flight Feb. 23. Mr. Sinek helped the U.S. Air Force Weapons School develop a new curriculum focused on creating the next generation of Air Force leaders and spoke during the inaugural class Feb. 22. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Simon Sinek, an internationally renowned speaker and author, goes through pre-flight procedures with Maj. Lawrence Sullivan, a U.S. Air Force Weapons School instructor assigned to the 16th Weapons Squadron, prior to an F-16 orientation flight Feb. 23. Mr. Sinek helped the U.S. Air Force Weapons School develop a new curriculum focused on creating the next generation of Air Force leaders and spoke during the inaugural class Feb. 22. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Capt. Etan Funches, U.S. Air Force Weapons School student, takes notes during a leadership course presented by Simon Sinek, an internationally renowned speaker and author of the book ?Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.?  Mr. Sinek helped the U.S. Air Force Weapons School develop a new curriculum focused on creating the next generation of Air Force leaders and helped introduce the program to students Feb. 22. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Capt. Etan Funches, U.S. Air Force Weapons School student, takes notes during a leadership course presented by Simon Sinek, an internationally renowned speaker and author of the book ?Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.? Mr. Sinek helped the U.S. Air Force Weapons School develop a new curriculum focused on creating the next generation of Air Force leaders and helped introduce the program to students Feb. 22. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- The U.S. Air Force Weapons School recently modified its syllabus to reflect that it is not only the Air Force's most challenging tactical training, but also a program designed to produce the Air Force's next generation of great leaders.

The Weapons School has commonly been thought of as a leadership course disguised as a tactics course. The graduates of this course earn their patch after receiving the highest levels of training so that they can be combat leaders in air, space and cyberspace. Quite often, its graduates rise to the Air Force's most senior ranks.

Now the school has formalized its approach to leadership training with the help of Simon Sinek, an internationally renowned speaker and author of the book, "Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action."

"Mr. Sinek volunteered to help incorporate his ideas into our curriculum," said Col. Richard Coe, U.S. Air Force Weapons School commandant. "The program is centered on the premise that great leaders communicate differently and must start from the inside out. I want every graduate who leaves this school to not only be a great tactician, but a better leader prepared to solve tough problems, develop our integrated war fighting tactics and to boldly lead others to make our next generation of Airmen better than we are today."

Mr. Sinek spoke to more than 100 Weapons School students during a three-day visit here Feb. 21-23. "This is a simple matter," he explained. "People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it."

According to Mr. Sinek, great leaders think, act and talk the same way and it's the exact opposite of the rest of the world. He went on to explain leaders are able to inspire when they effectively communicate the "why," then the "how" and finally the "what" and that's the foundation of his "golden circle" concept. He added that people respond to leaders who are driven by a cause, purpose and belief and are able to articulate the "why" effectively.

And herein lies the key to the significance of the "patch," according to one Weapons School instructor.

"No matter who you are or what your background, if you're in the Air Force, chances are you are familiar with the patch -- an emblem worn by all graduates of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School," explained Lt. Col. Paul Mullis, 14th Weapons Squadron assistant operations officer. "For graduates, it's often associated with what many of them refer to as the most difficult thing they've ever done in their lives, for many non-graduates, it signifies a standard by which all other patch wearers are measured and judged."

The Weapons School churns out many of the Air Force's future leaders, making it imperative to dedicate time towards leadership instruction.

"Leaders are critical in every organization whether business, government or community, but nowhere is it more important than in the military. As weapons officers, we learn the hard lessons to make the next generation better to help continue the legacy," said Colonel Coe.

The future of the Air Force depends on good leaders and that's why there is a renewed focus on leadership training in the Weapons School curriculum.

"We are committed to leaving no stone unturned when it comes to trying to figure out where our own weaknesses and shortcoming are and what we can do to fix or mitigate them. Recognizing that we can better educate tomorrow's warrior-leaders is the next logical step. This is our 'why' and commitment today to build, teach and boldly lead -- and it identifies that same conviction of values and emotion each of us feels when we put on the patch."