U.S. Air Force
Shared Services Group
After an 18-hour shift, Michael Gay just
wanted some shut-eye. Instead, he had
his eyes opened.
The U.S. Air Force senior noncommissioned
officer had finally nodded off
someone started banging at the
door. There stood one of the youngest
troops under his purview—sweat-soaked
and carrying all of the group’s gear
and sensitive paperwork.
“I don’t know why, but my first
response was to laugh,” said Gay, now
a Frequency Management analyst for
Boeing’s Site Services Group in St.
Louis. “The face he was making was
priceless. I’m 6 feet 2 inches and not
a small guy, but this airman was much
larger and scared to death.”
Gay’s laughter was cut short by an
explosion that shook his trailer. That was
when he realized the airman was looking
to him for help. As bunker commander,
Gay took immediate action by getting
his subordinates to safety and running
through checklists until they received
the all-clear from security forces.
In the end, the night’s emergency
was false alarm—a distant munitions
accident. But its effect on Gay would
last beyond that night.
He learned not only that a leader’s
reaction during crises has implications
on everyone else’s response but
also that leadership means being
accountable for people’s well-being.
Most important, he recognized his own
strength for performing under stress,
an ability he continues to draw on at
Boeing when coordinating with business
partners who rely on him to respond
quickly and accurately to challenges.
“We all wonder how we would react
in a real emergency, and now I know
for myself,” Gay said. “I went straight to
work as my training had taught me. I’m
still trying to keep the nervous laughter
to a minimum, though.” •
PHOTO: BOB FERGUSON | BOEING
Frequency Management analyst
30 | BOEING FRONTIERS