Every operational flight has a mission commander who at crunch time will have to make the difficult calls: to shoot or not to shoot? Continue flying under fire or retreat? A peek into the operational leaders’ course
Shani Poms and Michal Khayut
In every operational flight of the IAF, and for each one in the future, the leader of the structural formation has had a crucial role as commander of the mission. The operational leader has to deal not only with the heavy responsibility that comes with being in charge, but also with the dilemmas and surprises that occur in the air–a sudden storm, an enemy combat plane or a suspicious aircraft on the horizon.
No air crew member was “born” to be an operational leader. The leaders trudge through a long path before they are ready to lead a structure of planes, and receive the special training by the instruction of the “Flying Dragon” squadron, in its role as a center for advanced training. “The idea of the leaders’ course is to train air crew members from various squadrons in the force”, explains Captain Eyal, a pilot in charge of the aerial segment of training. “They begin their training at their home squadrons, but these two weeks are intensive. It’s here that the participants receive the tools needed to be leaders. They encounter conflicts they had never dealt with before”.
Beyond the complex challenges that the “Flying Dragon” brought before the aerial crews in the sky, the cadets of the leaders’ course were also introduced to innovations on the ground. They spoke with executives in the force and even listened to lectures from a basketball coach and a marine’s fleet commander who shared experiences as leaders. During one of the days, they met with a panel of squadron commanders, who combat commanding and leadership dilemmas daily. “They had the opportunity to ask them what they expect of leaders in their squadrons”, said Captain Shachar, who is responsible for the ground segment of the course, “what deliberations they often faced”.