SAN ANTONIO – More than 220 force support officer and enlisted leaders gathered in San Antonio Nov. 18-22 at the 2019 Force Support Squadron Leadership Training Workshop to help tackle big rock items impacting Airmen and families, and plan for future programs.
“Our Air Force has a lot of things it brings to bear for supporting Airmen and families at our installations and when we can bring this community (of FSS leaders) together, we get some very powerful information and idea sharing,” said Col. Christopher Harris, deputy director of Air Force Services and a presenter at the event. “It’s a tremendous opportunity and one of the reasons why we can’t lean on other methodologies to accomplish the sort of things we’re able to do when we’re all together and can talk.”
With a theme of “People Purpose Passion … Together Towards Tomorrow,” the event, hosted by the Air Force Services Center, focused on topics from across the services portfolio to include child care, school liaison, MWR programs, fitness, food and beverage, civilian hiring, marketing, contingency skills and information technology.
The varied topics demonstrate the diversity of installation force support activities and makes it vital that FSS leaders “come together to always focus on function versus form,” said AFSVC’s Chief Master Sgt. Learie Gaitan.
“Whether it’s the healthy food initiative, child care or something as simple as lodging, the old ways of doing business can no longer meet the Air Force priorities of having cost effective business operations,” Gaitan said. “It’s imperative for us to get out of form and focus on the functions that we need to deliver warfighting, ready Airmen … we need to change the paradigm on how we think about delivering these capabilities.”
Four “Big Rock Sessions” -- titled Lodging Way Ahead, Facilities and Recapitalization, Policies and Procedures, and Standards and Execution -- provided the latest information on areas of importance to installations and sparked valuable discussions among attendees.
“To hear what other commanders are struggling with, to hear what successes they are having in the field … that’s important,” said Maj. Jesse Calland, 325th FSS commander at Tyndall AFB, Florida, after sitting in on one of the earlier sessions. “I can take those things back and use them at Tyndall to better our program overall.”
In addition to information sharing, relationship building is expected to deliver huge dividends to the FSS community as leaders had the chance to put faces to names and build relationships with peers and experts they can call on for guidance and advice.
“As an example, AFSVC was key to us at Tyndall following a major category five hurricane about a year ago,” Calland said.
Calland was able to call on AFSVC’s Patti Mehrens and her child and youth programs team because of a relationship he had built at last year’s training workshop.
“Having that relationship and being able to reach out on the phone and talk to her and advocate for what we needed at Tyndall was key in our being able to standup childcare activity within three months of the storm happening,” he said. “Without that, we wouldn’t have been able to reunite families at the installation as quickly as we did.”
“(Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein) has mentioned numerous times that our squadrons are the beating heart of our Air Force and commanders and squadrons are our engines that drive innovation and drives us to meet today’s requirements and tomorrow’s needs,” said Col. Donna Turner, AFSVC commander. “The biggest thing for us at the Air Force Services Center is that we are here to help installations and provide the resources and programming they need to take care of Airmen and families each and every day.
“By having the interchange we’ve had over the week, we’ve been able to give (installation leaders) tools to help them take care of Airmen and families and we’ve gotten phenomenal feedback. The cross-flow of information is invaluable as we launch new initiatives and programs to meet Airmen’s needs,” Turner added.
At the end of the event, Turner and Gaitan said they were confident the entire force support community is moving forward, “working together for our people, our purpose, our passion towards tomorrow.”