Me: Tell us about your job as a flight commander for the United States Air Force?
Captain Brian Duque: Being a flight commander is the first opportunity at command for an officer to prepare the squadron commander position. It is an opportunity to grow and develop as an officer by trying different leadership styles and making mistakes to learn from. You can almost think of a flight commander as a mini squadron commander in that they are totally responsible for everything that occurs in their flight. The concepts are very similar, just on a smaller scale with more room to learn. Some of the responsibilities of a flight commander include making sure the members in our flight, roughly 70 people, are combat ready and overseeing their academic, simulator, flight, and ground training. I monitor manning levels, project losses, and build up the replacements for those losses. A flight commander also provides mentorship and feedback for the members of his/her flight.
Me: Could you tell us about a few experiences you’d consider as victories?
Capt Duque: Last year, on Fourth of July, I was able to help track the Tu-95 Russian Bombers off the coast of Alaska and as they headed towards California. We were airborne for many hours and tracked the entire flight of the Russian bombers. During the flight, there were moments when we were definitely anxious…Afterwards, I was lucky enough to enjoy the last couple of hours of the July 4th celebrations. I was exhausted, yet so glad I got to be a part of that mission because it reminded me of why I wanted to serve.
Also, while I was stationed in Alaska, I had the most challenging and rewarding job up to that point. I had just gotten a new job as an assistant flight commander for S-Flight (the Support Flight). S-Flight was unique in that it not only encompassed flyers that I was responsible for but also a myriad of enlisted career fields that I didn’t know much about. We supported the administrative portion for Aircrew Flight Equipment, Intelligence, Squadron Aviation Resource Management, Commander’s Support Staff, and Communications.
Our flight commander was then in upgrade training, so I assumed the role of acting flight commander for five months. I set out to observe each office for a couple of weeks, while also getting to know the personnel under me and also keeping the flyers combat ready. Morale was also low in S-Flight because they were considered an irregular flight in the squadron since they were not solely comprised with flyers as the other flights were.
After getting to know how each office worked and operated, I began to see where we could refine certain processes and streamline things to make each office more effective. I also started quarterly potlucks as a way for each office to bring their signature dishes to share and for the 40 members in our flight to get to know each other better. My leadership team and I also worked hard together to get our members recognized and to start winning quarterly awards, culminating in my flight winning flight of the quarter. After that win, my flight knew they were just as good as any flight.
Looking back at my time in S-Flight, I realized that was the reason I became an officer, to bring a diverse group of people together and make them better and work towards a common goal, to accomplish something bigger than ourselves….I do hope that my superiors, peers, subordinates, and friends know that I will always do my best at whatever task I am given. I will never ask somebody to do something that I would not do myself. I also hope they trust that I will take care of those around me to the best of my abilities.
Me: What’s something most people don’t know about you?
Capt Duque: Most people don’t know that if I didn’t have my wife to support me, I don’t know if I’d be able to do all of the tasks I have. She really has been the reason I keep improving and trying to better everything around me. I couldn’t do it all without her for sure.