Serving as a Good Shepherd

July 7, 2021

When Steve Sawyer joined the King Aerospace team five years ago, he quickly felt at home. As a retired U.S. Navy Master Chief with 30 years in the service, Sawyer says King’s Cornerstone Principles and expressions of King Kulture use different words, but the meaning mirrors much of the Navy’s philosophy. The Navy’s unofficial motto – Non sibi sed patriae, or Not for self, but for country – is like King’s God, Country and Family.

“Our goal for King Aerospace leaders at all levels is to be good shepherds who unite people, who look after their needs – both team members and customers – and who care about people wherever they are,” says Founder and Chairman Jerry King. “Steve Sawyer epitomizes being a good shepherd.”

Sawyer serves as program manager for our contractor logistics support (CLS) work scope for the U.S. Army’s Special Electronic Mission Aircraft (SEMA). We are a subcontractor for Northrop Grumman. The contract provides mission-critical, lifecycle services for a fleet of 68 highly modified King Air (C-12), De Havilland Canada Dash 7 (DHC-7) and Dash 8 (DHC-8) turboprop aircraft used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). The contract was awarded in 2017 with options extending to 2026.

Sawyer has managed explosive growth in the program. In 2020, he oversaw our SEMA work scope expansion to include eight additional locations nationwide and five new international locations. Additional operations directly support efforts in four Department of Defense Combatant Commands: EUCOM, SOUTHCOM, PACOM and AFRICOM.

Steve Sawyer’s affinity for teamwork translates to sports as well, especially baseball.

Getting the Job Done, Whatever It Takes

Making this growth even more impressive, we accepted the responsibility to support 12 of these new locations in a mere 30 days. Sawyer was among the leadership team visiting the new domestic locations in person and, due to COVID-19 protocols, videoconferencing to virtually onboard more than 200 highly trained and specialized new hires.

How did Sawyer help pull this off?

“I’m surrounded by good people, and we had a good plan,” says Sawyer. “In order to create a feeling of family, you have to get out into the field, meet people individually, listen closely and take action as needed.”

It’s only by recognizing and respecting one another’s strengths and weaknesses, Sawyer says, that people can come together as a strong, unified, high-performing team. Integrating team members from around the world includes a deep dive into our no-excuses culture and helping empowered team members understand their why, or their purpose. Sawyer continues to travel once or twice a month as part of his efforts to “listen to the field” and “lean forward.”

“We have quite a road ahead of us and an important mission that requires 24/7 support,” says Sawyer. “But it’s like being in the Armed Forces. This is a life of service. You figure out how to balance it all. You cherish your time with family. It’s sacred.”

A Force for Security, Stability and Advancement

Sawyer has been part of our team’s ongoing training with servant-leadership consultant and author James C. Hunter. What has been his biggest takeaway?

“It takes humility and honesty to grow and improve,” he says. “Even with all the expansion and growth, we continually achieve wins. The evolution of this program has been challenging, but also immensely rewarding.”

The Navy’s motto, Semper FortisAlways Courageous – applies to Sawyer. He resolutely faces both good and bad. He advances fearlessly and brings his team along.

“We’re so thankful for Steve and for our many other good shepherds,” says King. “We care about them and empower them. It’s what makes us who we are.”

The military retirement photo shown at the top was taken after Steve Sawyer concluded 30 years of active duty in the U.S. Navy. He is surrounded here by his wife and family. Sawyer says the event felt surreal as he had just lost his father, a Vietnam veteran, due to cancer from wartime exposure to Agent Orange.