top of page

Defining Character (Book Excerpt)

This excerpt comes from Leadership from 30,000 Feet: Attributes of Effective Leaders as told by Five Air Force Generals, an anthology by Two Blue Aces’ contributors. To read the rest of this story and many others like it you can purchase your own copy on Amazon!


Title: Defining Character

Author: Jake Polumbo

“Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character, but if you must be without one, be without strategy.” — General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

When I consider what it means for a leader to have impeccable character, one image instantly springs to mind: General Joseph F. Dunford, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, in the early-morning twilight, leading a remembrance ceremony for a fallen soldier at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan.

Starting in mid-2012, we served together in Afghanistan for the better part of a year. General Dunford was the commander of ISAF, which included troops and resources supplied from forty-four NATO nations. I was the commander of the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force in Kabul, and I also served as the Deputy Commander for Air, United States Forces Afghanistan.

While there, I lived in two small shipping containers and worked about a block away, in a two-story, gray box of a building where I spent most of my time. A third point in my four-sided, well-worn path was a large yellow building built by the Russians decades ago, where I often saw the general hard at work during meetings in his office or in a large conference room with his international staff. Our busy paths would cross by necessity and by chance, but it wasn’t until he invited me to a memorial ceremony—a.k.a. a “ramp ceremony” in our military parlance—that I truly got to know the man.


To read the rest of this story and many others like it you can purchase your own copy on Amazon!



bottom of page