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Mark Fogel is a former US Air Force fighter pilot and current squadron commander in the Ohio Air National Guard. He’s A graduate of the US Air Force Academy and the Harvard Kennedy School, he is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Dayton, and his TEDx Talk called The Culture of a Fighter Squadron is one of the best I’ve seen.


  • American Fighter Sqaudrons are the most effective teams on the planet. Cockiness is unacceptable. Humility is a critical quality and skill to be part of the team.
    • The subculture is you check your rank at the door. When you lead a mission, you’re in charge of the debrief. I love building a culture where feedback is regularly given both ways. And the trust created amongst the team to be able to do this with psychological safety.
  • The real training and learning take place in the debrief…Spending hours pouring over video, computer graphic reenactments, radio calls, everything… To diagnose exactly what went right and what didn’t and why. The debriefs can last multiple days to describe 10 minutes of action.
    • The person who leads the debrief is the flight leader. That person is not necessarily the most experienced member of the team. Fighter squadrons share the leadership and followership duties constantly. You might have a situation where it’s a 24-year-old lieutenant telling a 2-star General in front of the entire room, “You screwed up and this is why we failed the mission because of it.” This creates a mixture of perfectionism and humility.
  • Building a culture takes time. Trust is built from character and competence.
    • How do you reward and incentivize behavior?
    • You’re modeling what you want others to do.

One Comment

  1. Jerry McFeeters January 31, 2024 at 11:59 am - Reply

    Great Discussion:
    Mark- I can appreciate your comments, having been a C-141 pilot in the 1970’s stationed at Charleston AFB, I can relate. As we provided support all over the world, we learned to follow and led, depending on the situations.

    Keep up the great work!

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