SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – Much like a jet engine, the 80th Operations Support Squadron is a well-oiled machine that requires a lot of moving parts to keep the mission moving forward, on and off the ground.
Its diverse make-up has a daily impact on the overall mission of the 80th Flying Training Wing and the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program with functions such as air traffic control, radar approach control, airfield management, radar airfield weather systems, aircrew flight equipment, weather, airspace, and the office of student training. But such a wide range of missions dispersed among Sheppard Air Force Base also presents some complexities.
Lt. Col. Jason Turner, 80th OSS commander, said leadership at the flight level was outstanding and very much engaged with getting the mission accomplished when he arrived here in 2016. But as with any machine, a little fine tuning has to take place to make sure it runs smoothly. The changes made under Turners leadership led the roughly 19-year Air Force veteran to be named a recipient of the 2017 Profession at Arms Center of Excellence and Air University Leadership Institute Leadership Impact Award.
“That team was firing on all cylinders when it comes to our primary mission set, which is providing the infrastructure and support structure that makes ENJJPT work and makes this airfield work and provides weather support to the 82nd (Training Wing),” he said. “It seems as we were looking at those mission areas, we were winning in our deliverables to our shareholders.”
While the well-oiled, high-performance vehicle that is the 80th OSS Wizards was rolling along without a hitch, all the moving parts weren’t necessarily privy to one another, rather they were performing independently.
“What we found is a lot of the Wizards found allegiance to their flight, whether they’re at the weather flight, whether they’re at the tower or whether they’re at the RAPCON or aircrew flight equipment or airspace or airfield management or student training,” he said. “They had individual identities, but their knowledge of the other goings on in the squadron or their interactions within the squadron was where we saw not necessarily a lack of unity, but an opportunity to build more unity.”
The first step, he said, was to get everyone on the same page in regards to the overall mission of the 80th OSS. The mission, undoubtedly, is to support the ENJJPT mission and produce combat pilots for NATO.
Turner said a vision for the squadron is what was missing, so he developed a statement that encompassed the mechanism to meet mission requirements: “Wizards United in Upholding the Highest Standards for Support and Training.”
“I led off with ‘Wizards United’ intentionally because for all of the functional areas that we have, I wanted us to act with a common culture; a common sense of purpose,” he said. “As you look at the individual programs that the squadron put together – it’s not me putting them together, it’s the leadership team within the squadron that made this happen – we looked to the events that get people from different areas together, whether it’s athletically or intellectually, how can we get folks from different functions talking?”
One voluntary group-gathering event the squadron hosted was a “beat-the-boss” run that encouraged Airmen to run 1 ½ mile faster than Turner, which turned into the Wizard Run. A positive result of the team-unifying activity was an overall improvement of fitness within the 80th OSS. Turner said the run brought people together and created the foundation for continued unity in the squadron.
Turner said the squadron also began hosting TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Talks each Wednesday that brings Airmen together to talk about topics ranging from leadership, relationships, mentorship and more. The discussions also touched on how each specific area could be applied to the squadron and mission.
The commander said another result of the functional areas of the 80th OSS drawing closer through events such as the Wizard Run and TED Talks has been the ability for the different flights to collaborate. There wasn’t much room for working together because the flights tended to operate within their own role.
Turner said each flight plays an important part to getting aircraft in the air, and people who see them flying in the area see a visible symbol for what Sheppard does.
“The next priority behind accomplishing the mission is building a culture based in teamwork, trust and a sense of pride,” he said. “I think these opportunities that have gotten people together has helped that culture.”
Another part of the cultural change in the OSS has also included finding ways to get family members more involved. Turner said spouse taxi day is one example that gives loved ones an opportunity to see and experience, to some level, what their military member experiences. He said it another way to build a sense of community within the squadron and make it stronger in the future.
A large white board hangs on the north wall of Turner’s office, a lengthy list of things he wants to do or hopes to accomplish before his time as OSS commander comes to an end. Tasks, actions, a checklist of desired outcomes on those items make up the personalized index. The commander said the squadron is doing a lot of things the right way, but there is always room to do more.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t proud of this squadron. I’m amazed at the things they accomplish every day,” he said. “But, there’s always room to make things better … There’s value in the relentless pursuit of perfection.”
The 2017 PACE awards focus on people and organizations that developed leadership in learning environments that accelerated growth in decision making. Recipients of the award are invited to attend a three-day industry-sponsored leadership academy in June.