NEVADA AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Nev. --
Last November, I humbly accepted the responsibility of caring for the High Roller family when I took the guide-on as your Wing Commander. Chief Ash and I can say with straight faces that the last year has been a blur! Little did I know that shortly after taking command we would be dealing with a global pandemic, a volatile civil unrest situation and an incredibly active wildfire season. While the confluence of these events has been depicted by many as “historic challenges,” I’d like to focus on the amazing opportunities these events have afforded our organization. Amidst all the turbulence and uncertainty surrounding COVID, a clarity of purpose emerged that lights our path into the future that we truly believe will lead our Wing to greatness. Growth is not possible without stress, and the stress of dealing with the threat of COVID has forced us to think differently and put fresh eyes on almost every process and program we have. At the heart of this is innovation – how do we accomplish our current mission in a more lean and agile fashion? The need to balance our risk to force with risk to mission drove many of these new ways of doing business and has opened our minds for innovative solutions in the future.
Chief Ash and I wanted to take a moment and reflect on our accomplishments and express our appreciation to all of the High Roller Airmen. These accomplishments reflect growth in three areas: Growing Readiness, Growing Resilience, and Growing Innovation.
Growing Readiness: We started the year with creating our Wing Strategic Plan and prioritizing our efforts around our 4 Wing Priorities: Building the Force for Tomorrow, Advance Full Spectrum Readiness, Shaping the High Roller Culture, and Ensuring Fully Mission Capable Airmen and Families. Little did we know that many of the tenets of our Strategic Plan would be tested immediately with a global pandemic.
The Wing responded to the largest state activation in history in a big way, leading Task Force 152 through the summer and supporting a variety of missions to include community-based collection sites logistics support, food bank operations, medical screening and tribal lands support. Over 250 members of our Wing supported at some point, many of whom are still on FEMA orders today and for the foreseeable future. We exercised numerous parts of our Wing that had not been exercised in a while, to include Joint Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration (JRSOI).
We also rose to the challenge laid out by the USAF to meet operational readiness requirements. As a result, we prioritized resources to better organize, train and equip our force and were able to meet that readiness threshold early!
With the looming threat of wildfire season approaching, we creatively maximized proficiency training and MAFFS spin-up – that preparation paid off as we supported an extremely active fire season. During that time, we consistently delivered exceptional results, providing hundreds of hours and 1.3M gallons of fire retardant to active fires across California. More importantly, we had zero safety incidents and went above and beyond, providing time-sensitive maintenance support for other units and earning appreciation from the entire Interagency fire enterprise. As our primary domestic operation, the team knocked it out of the park and we are primed for next fire season to support, for the first time, as an organic crew.
We are now primed to host two major inspections, AFMAA and our UEI CAPSTONE. We grew readiness through our diligent attention to detail, looking under every rock and peering behind every corner to identify where we are falling short of Air Force guidance. We have wholeheartedly adopted an “Embrace the Red!” mentality as a way to improve upon readiness and get the most out of these inspections. As part of this process, we have increased approved waivers and waiver requests to Higher Headquarters by 900%.
Growing Resilience: We started with our first-ever Resilience Tactical Pause (RTP), and while it was successful, weren’t content to rest on that success, but instead, embedded Airmen resilience in our daily regime. We hosted several Mayor’s Challenge and Governor’s Challenge events, normalizing our discussions about mental health to try and eliminate the scourge of suicide.
During the height of social unrest, we conducted an Inclusion Tactical Pause, bringing to light racial disparities in our Air Force and opening the door to a series of meaningful conversations to increase inclusion in our ranks. We have followed that with Wing-wide EO focus groups, eliciting honest feedback on our current climate and recommendations for how we can improve upon what we know is a solid foundation. The High Roller culture is strong, but we always strive for excellence and we have identified through our Culture Off-site meaningful ways we can get better, to include increasing trust, relationships and personal accountability, while stopping tribalism.
Our resilience also grew through an invigorated community engagement campaign. We have made stronger connections with our ARNG counterparts, as well as our Airport Authority neighbors, Nevada Department of Veteran’s Services, Boys and Girls Club of Truckee Meadows, Rotary and Chamber of Commerce.
Growing Innovation: We started the year off strong on Innovation, introducing it first as a concept and quickly putting that concept into practice by standing up Silver State Spark, part of the AFWERX ecosystem. Our team connects with other innovators across the country and taps into the innovation database and funding, allowing our tough problems to be solved. Airmen are encouraged to engage with our Innovation team to learn about innovation and if you have an idea, bring it to the Spark Cell so we can bring it to life!
We innovated across the board how to conduct daily operations as well as drill operations, instituting a number of creative ways to conduct telework, virtual drill, split shift work schedules and health protection protocols. This opened the door for procedures that will make our daily life more efficient-- we are currently submitting Spark Tank ideas for both a digital scheduling system that can be used across commercial platforms and geographically separated member and a QR code system for scheduling customer service across the base.
Lastly, we have increased our openness to change. With our new CSAF mandate to “Accelerate Change or Lose,” we are fully invested in influencing the doctrine that will allow us to success in a near-peer future fight. This includes educating ourselves and experimenting with Agile Combat Employment and Multi-Capable Airmen, concepts that, along with Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2), will fundamentally change the way we present forces to the Joint Forces Commander.
This first year in command has had a little of everything. Chief and I have laughed, cried, worked long hours and had sleepless nights as we have fought our way through circumstances we did not foresee having to contend with. However, we never lost hope because of YOU – we knew our Airmen had the resolve and talent to carry the day and that belief does not waver today. I can’t tell you how hopeful I am for our future, because I know how much stronger we are as an organization because of growing through this last year. We have much work to do to realize our end state, but I am inspired by the potential for greatness in our Airmen. Thank you for a great first year!
Livin’ High, Flyin’ Low,