JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
U.S. Air Force Colonel William Creeden, 1st Fighter Wing commander, comes from a strong military background. His grandfather was a fighter pilot in the Air Force for over 35 years and a veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam Wars.
His grandfather, already a heavy influence for his decision to join, took him to an airshow at a young age and from that moment on, Creeden knew the military was the path for him.
Many may not know, but Creeden is prior enlisted. He joined the Virginia Air National Guard in 1995 before commissioning into active duty in 2000. We got to speak with Creeden about his background, feelings on the 1st FW, and personal life.
What is your favorite core value?
For me, this is an easy answer. Integrity first. It’s all about your personal character and the belief that you serve a purpose bigger than yourself. Since you believe you serve a bigger purpose than yourself, it demands you put service before yourself and are excellent in all you do.
What’s your favorite thing about being the 1st Fighter Wing Commander?
Another easy answer, the people. I’ve been blessed with some great opportunities throughout my career. I’ve gotten an increasing and strong appreciation for serving people. It’s a blessing and honor to work hand-in-hand with the finest individuals in our society.
In the 1st Fighter Wing, I’ve seen that we have some incredibly mission-focused Airmen who are talented and innovative. They are the type of people who make you better just by being around them.
So, the best thing is the opportunity to continue working with Airmen; that’s what keeps me going.
Can you tell us about your family?
I’m married to my better half; her name is Gala. We’ll be hitting our 20th anniversary in a month. We have two amazing kids, a 15-year old daughter Lacey and a nine-year old son, Will. My wife and I met the night of my commissioning and the night before I left OTS to go to Vance AFB. We obviously kept in touch and a year and a half later, we were married.
I’m a huge sports fan. Seasonal sports for sure. My favorite overall sports team is the Washington Capitals, a hockey team. I love playing sports. To relax, I spend as much time as I can with my family, work out and I’m an avid reader. I’m big into history and leadership, all nonfiction.
With the 1st FW workforce made up of Active Duty, Guard, civilians and retirees, what makes diversity so important for the mission?
The absolute strength in diversity is that if we continue to only see the same issue or challenge all through the same lens, we will have a tremendous number of blind spots. Every leader has to take what’s given to them and make the best of it. They have to optimize it and lead their team as best as they can, but they can still be constrained by their own experiences, their traditional belief systems, you name it. So, if you don’t have an outside perspective, you’ll only be as good as your own personal lens. Diversity allows us to open our field of view, so we are not staring through a soda straw. We’re broadening to see other ideas and opinions. That’s one of the greatest resources that we have in our workforce.
What to you makes a great servicemember?
Being a great teammate. No one person in the Air Force is going to fly, fight, win. Even though we have the best weapon systems in the world, they are inanimate objects until you put an Airman on them. That can’t just be one Airman though; it has to be a team. The orchestration required to turn inanimate objects into the most lethal source the world has ever seen, you need a team.
To me, a great service member is somebody that understands it’s about the team.
What advice do you have for young Airmen and Soldiers that are just coming in?
Learn, grow and lead.
Learn your Air Force Specialty Code, and learn it to the best of your ability. Learn where your particular skillset fits into airpower. Be better at your job than your counterpart adversary. If you’re a crew chief, I need you to be a better crew chief than our adversaries have. If you’re an air traffic controller, be better than the adversary air traffic controller. If you’re intel, be a better intel Airman than the adversary.
Grow. The Air Force puts a lot of demands on you, but it will also provide opportunities to grow and develop as an individual. It’s hard to find a civilian occupation or business that gives you the same level of ability to grow. It does take personal initiative to capitalize on those opportunities so take advantage of those. Grow professionally and personally.
The last is lead. Even in our younger ranks, Airmen will need to step up and lead. Realize that you don’t need an ‘O’ in your paygrade or commander in your title. Help others grow and learn and not make any mistakes you may have made.
Creeden closes out by reminding members that their Air Force career in the grand scheme is just a long temporary duty.
Whether someone is in for four years or forty, when the uniform is hung up, he wants everyone to do it knowing they left it better than when they arrived.