“Go See” Commander highlights “operations”

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Mark Kraby
  • 92nd Operations Support Squadron
I wasn't sure what to write about, so, I asked Public Affairs for some advice. They suggested I write about something besides "leadership," which gets a lot of press in the Flyer, and to write about the 92nd Operations Support Squadron, since not many people understand what the OSS does. Brilliant. I'm the OSS Commander, I can do that, no problem. Maybe I'll learn something too.
     The OSS provides agile combat support to the 92nd and 141st Air Refueling Wing's KC-135 missions and 17 additional joint tenant units on Fairchild. We're a very diverse squadron spread out across the base in seven different buildings working under 16 AFSCs and are responsible for weather, tactics, aircrew training, aircrew flight equipment, air traffic control, airfield management, combat crew communications and operations scheduling. Our OSS folks are deployed across-the-world in seven countries supporting a myriad of taskings as well as rotational support at Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan and Curacao, in the Caribbean. Bottom line is we support flying operations, from taxi lights to mission paperwork at home and abroad.
     I could fill this article talking about all the various tasks and duties the hard-working OSS professionals execute each day in support of flying operations. Unfortunately, I can't do that. So, I visited with everyone across the OSS spaces and tried to gather a few facts. Here's what I learned:
     Current Ops (Long Range, Short Range, ONE, Flight Planning, Flight Records): Usually referred to as "scheduling," they do much, much more. They coordinate all our diplomatic clearances, including our Russian clearances for our Russian polar over flights; they plan all our local missions; they're responsible for coordinating/scheduling our Operation Noble Eagle alert lines 24/7/365; they work long-range flight scheduling and short-range weekly flight scheduling hosting 144 scheduling meetings a year (three per-week culminating in the wing commander signing the final flight schedule). Also, our aviation resource managers (flight records), host aviation resource management and squadron aviation resource management shops, fall under current ops, and work tirelessly documenting each sortie, each minute of flight, every single flight event logged by every boom operator and pilot (tens of thousands), every jump mission accomplished by our tenants, flight/jump status for 475+ Fairchild and attached flyers/jumpers, flight pay records, flight physical records, aeronautical badges, chamber flights, go/no-go products ... and their office is on-call 24 hour-a-day. Wow!
     Airfield Operations (Tower, Airfield Management, Combat Crew Communications): Did you know the Control Tower is still manned 24/7 even though the runway is closed? We still work helicopter operations and coordinate airspace with Spokane Approach. Believe it or not, the air traffic folks have a simulator located in the tower, just like an aircraft simulator, that they use to maintain currency. This thing is cool, just like being in the actual tower cab. Airfield management is also 24/7, still filing aircrew flight plans for all our operations out of Spokane and Moses Lake. They stay busy monitoring the airfield, coordinating across the wing to ensure the $43 million runway construction project completes on time, and managing the wing's flight line driving program. Our combat crew communications folks manage all the classified documents and flight publications for the aircrew -- authentication documents, Iridium phones, encryption devices, approach plates and charts and the list goes on ... a complete set of flight pubs for Fairchild is about 3,000 lbs. of documents worth roughly $45,000!
     Weather: They brief the weather forecast for the wing daily, and have never been wrong ... ever. They support our tenant agencies with weather briefs and answer to any aircraft requesting current weather and forecasts over their "Pilot-to-Metro" frequency. Additionally, they're responsible for calibrating and maintaining their own weather equipment. Who knew they've never been wrong?
     Aircrew Flight Equipment (life support): These guys and gals meticulously maintain all aircrew life support equipment on the aircraft and in storage for the aircrew. This is 260+ bags of aircrew chemical gear and helmets, hundreds of floatation devices, 110, 20-man life rafts, 70, 9mm weapons and 1000+ rounds of ammunition, combat survival vests, $675,000 worth of survival radios and more. They're also responsible for running the aircrew decontamination line for Ability To Survive and Operate exercises and training aircrew on all the equipment. Amazing!
     Training: These guys are magicians (OSS mascot is the Wizard). They're responsible for every aircrew flight or ground training program in the wing and manage crew members in these programs cradle-to-grave. They've got anywhere from 25 to 40 students in active training - mission certification, aircraft commander upgrade, instructor boom/pilot upgrade, touch and go - you name it, they train it. They work out of the simulator building where we've got a classified tactics simulator/trainer, two full-motion aircraft flight simulators and a complete computer-based training lab and tech order library. Magic happens there.
     Tactics: Finally our tactics program. No doubt - the best in Air Mobility Command. They train aircrew on aircraft employment tactics; Area of Responsibility special instructions; survival training to include land, water, resistance, escape/evasion and combat skills; and, provide classified theater specific briefs to all deploying aircrew members. These guys are good and can teach you how to break someone's face.
     That's what we do, they're an incredible team, these guys are darn good at it, and, I'm blessed to be a part of it.
     Ok, I thought I wouldn't talk leadership, but here's what I learned. You've got to "go see." The vector is Mission Accomplishment, Take Care of your Wingman to Build Trust and an Unbeatable Team, Take Care of Yourself to be the Best. From my perspective, no where is it more clear than the OSS. That mission is job one and it takes a "team" of diverse capabilities and expert Airmen to get that mission done safely everyday. And, nothing is more important to this team than communication. Communication builds trust and trust makes that team unbeatable. And, to truly communicate, you've got to "go see" your Airmen, our most precious resource, and talk to them everyday to know them and understand their mission and their problems. You've got to go see and communicate to them how important their job is to the team and how it fits into the mission. If you don't go see, and be there face to face, you'll never really understand or be able to communicate effectively and the team will suffer 
     I thought I knew this coming into command in the OSS, but, I've more often than not fallen victim to sitting behind the computer cranking through e-mail or traveling through the daily meeting agenda. It's a trap that's hard to break and I need to do better. But what I've learned, and re-learned over the past six months is that to be successful as a team and leader, you've got to "go see."