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AF sets new course in future support operations

Maj. Christopher Wyckoff, 305th Mission Support Squadron commander at McGuire AFB, N.J., speaks with 305th Services Squadron personnel during a luncheon recently. The two squadrons are scheduled to merge into the force support squadron in January. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Rebekah Phy)

Maj. Christopher Wyckoff, 305th Mission Support Squadron commander at McGuire AFB, N.J., speaks with 305th Services Squadron personnel during a luncheon recently. The two squadrons are scheduled to merge into the force support squadron in January. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Rebekah Phy)

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- When it comes to people programs, community support and quality of life, there will soon be one organization on base that will handle it all - the force support squadron.

The new organization is the result of an ongoing Air Force-wide merger of mission support and services squadrons and is expected to be completed in about two years.

The new squadrons will help streamline processes, maximize customer service and cut costs associated with maintaining separate organizations, said Col. Mike Gamble, deputy director of Strategic, Plans and Programs at the Pentagon.

"Because we're a leaner force, we need to focus on getting our people and organizations to operate at maximum efficiency," Colonel Gamble said. "This reorganization puts our manpower, personnel and services capabilities under one leadership 'hat,' which reduces overhead and gives our people in the field the flexibility to be more responsive to customers' needs."

The new FSS includes five flights: force development, manpower and personnel, Airmen and family services, sustainment services and community services. The new structure combines similar functional areas that already work closely together. For example, the sustainment services flight contains the food operations, fitness and wellness, and lodging branches.

"This is basically a behind-the-scenes change and should appear transparent to most Airmen," said Capt. Ronald Bell, chief of Personal Services Delivery Operations at the Air Force Personnel Center. "If someone needs to go get an ID card or go to the Airman's Attic, in most cases, that person will still go to the same location they're familiar with today. What we'll have, however, is a more effective force structure in place to better support our Airmen in the long run."

In January 2007, Air Force bases across six commands were selected to test the new squadron model. The test bases helped establish where specific responsibilities and processes should be placed within the organizational structure and how they should be set up. Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., was one of them.

"This merger has not been without its challenges," said Maj. Sarah Schultz, 319th FSS commander at Grand Forks AFB. "We've had to re-establish lines of communication, move some people around and overcome cultural differences between the functions. But, even with the difficulties, we're already seeing the benefits of combining these assets."

Lt. Col. Carleton Hirschel, 90th FSS commander at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo., cited the new force development flight as an example. "The new force development flight commander is responsible for all education, training, the library, professional development and professional military education," he said. "It's advantageous for the wing to have one person overseeing and integrating the learning opportunities for the installation."

The merger is also advantageous for the careers of future force support officers and civilians.

"This reorganization opens up career opportunities that we haven't had before," said Colonel Gamble. "With our training plan in place, our people will be able to gain valuable experience across different functional areas. We've also created a new position - the operations officer - that will be open to officers and civilians."

For more information on the new FSSs, call AFPC's Military Future Operations Branch at (210) 565-4334, DSN 665-4334.