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Inspire, lead, encourage: Outgoing commander reflects on tenure

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England – Col. John Quintas, 48th Fighter Wing commander, taxis in an F-15E Strike Eagle through a water arch during his “fini” flight April 2, 2012. Quintas was greeted by friends and family to celebrate his last flight as the Liberty Wing commander. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cory D. Payne)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England – Col. John Quintas, 48th Fighter Wing commander, taxis in an F-15E Strike Eagle through a water arch during his “fini” flight April 2, 2012. Quintas was greeted by friends and family to celebrate his last flight as the Liberty Wing commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Cory D. Payne)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England – Col. John Quintas, 48th Fighter Wing commander, is sprayed with water and champagne after his “fini” flight April 2, 2012. Quintas took his final flight as the Liberty Wing commander in an F-15E Strike Eagle piloted by Col. Daniel Orcutt, 48th Operations Group commander. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cory D. Payne)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England – Col. John Quintas, 48th Fighter Wing commander, is sprayed with water and champagne after his “fini” flight April 2, 2012. Quintas took his final flight as the Liberty Wing commander in an F-15E Strike Eagle piloted by Col. Daniel Orcutt, 48th Operations Group commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Cory D. Payne)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- During the four years Col. John Quintas has been at the 48th Fighter Wing, he has led many people in different capacities.

Serving first as commander of the 48th Operations Group, then as wing commander, he had the opportunity to bring out the best in the Airmen under him.

As he prepares to move on to his next assignment at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Quintas reflected on some of the challenges he faced during his time at RAF Lakenheath. He noted the need to balance a high level of readiness with efficiency in the current budget climate. More important, he added, is the need to continue building on past successes.

"The biggest challenge here at Lakenheath is sustaining the level of performance," he said, mentioning that turnover of personnel can create additional pressure.

"You might have good NCOs, chiefs and commanders but they're always turning over, people get burned out and morale can sag," Quintas said.

But in confronting those challenges, Quintas has learned lessons that he will take with him to his next post, chief among them being the need to take care of those he leads.

"It's all about getting the most out of every single person," he said. "You have to identify the real leaders in your organization and help them grow and develop. You need to give them a lot of responsibility and a lot of trust."

After first serving as the operations group commander and then leading the 48th FW during his four years here, Quintas said he isn't sure what Airmen will remember him for.

"There are people who have known me for a week and there are people who have known me the whole four years I've been here," he said. "The reality is it's a very transient organization."

However, he did have one suggestion.

"I hope that I'll be remembered for putting the mission first [and pushing] this wing to make sure we were ready every day."

Ultimately, Quintas said that when he departs, he leaves with the knowledge that the Liberty Wing will continue to thrive.

"This is a great wing, an important wing to our country and I'm just one individual who is passing through," he said. "I hope I've had an impact."