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News > Services, Mission Support squadrons to merge
Services, Mission Support squadrons to merge

Posted 6/2/2008   Updated 6/2/2008 Email story   Print story

    


by Tech. Sgt. Kelly Ogden
1st SOW Public Affairs


6/2/2008 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Two of Hurlburt Field's largest customer service squadrons, the 1st Special Operations Mission Support Squadron and the 1st Special Operations Services Squadron, will officially merge June 20, creating the 1st Special Operations Force Support Squadron.

The change comes as a direct result of the Air Force's needs to recapitalize on an aging aircraft fleet.

With the demands of having to self-generate capital as well as saving money for the recapitalization efforts, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. T. Michael Moseley elected to cut personnel in order to pay for modernization. With this decision, the support career fields took the largest cuts. Merging services and personnel/manpower functions was an answer to accomplish this goal.

"The primary similarity between the 1st SOMSS and the 1st SOSVS is that they serve people, and they're the two most customer-service oriented units in the 1st Special Operations Wing," said Col. Michael Smietana, 1st Special Operations Mission Support Group commander. "By merging these two squadrons, we will reduce the number of flights from 12 to five, thereby reducing overhead."

For the most part, there will be one single flight focused on training, to include professional military education, off-duty education, base training and educational support. Casualty and mortuary affairs will be unified into one process, providing units a one-stop shop for help during times of need. Finally, all human functions will be combined into one flight. This merger of functions will increase the ability of the 1st SOMSG to multi-task and to reduce the chance of a having a single point of failure.

"The bottom line is that both squadrons focus on people," said Maj. Damon Menendez, current 1st SOMSS commander and future 1st SOFSS commander. "Re-organizing the base's 'people programs' under one umbrella and like functions within the squadron will generate efficiencies and expertise that will be translated through increased customer service capability."

In this case, the goal is to make it easier for the 1st SOMSG to coordinate activities in the Airman & Family Readiness Center, child development center and youth programs, which all have the common purpose of helping families.

"If squadrons need support, there's a better chance we'll have back up personnel that can assist," Colonel Smietana said. "When it's all said and done, hopefully it will all be transparent to the base, and all customers will see is a responsive squadron supporting all their personnel, service and recreational needs."

In addition to the squadrons merging, there will also be a change in squadron leadership.

"It boiled down to timing," Major Menendez said. "Both Maj. Paul Swenson, the 1st SOSVS commander, and I were equally qualified to run the squadron. We both took command at the same time and have a year left on our command tours."

Major Swenson, who was a commander for a year prior to arriving at Hurlburt Field, had yet to attend Air Command and Staff College, while Major Menendez was in his first year of command and was already a graduate of ACSC. The opportunity for Major Swenson to go to school and for Major Menendez to complete a second year of command contributed to Colonel Smietana's decision.

However, squadron leadership won't be the only thing changing. The merger will also affect leadership positions in some way or another. Positions such as additional duties, first sergeant duty, training and readiness programs will also change. All of these positions will expand to incorporate both squadrons and the wing staff agencies.

In total, the squadron will provide administrative control for approximately 700 military, appropriated funds and non-appropriated civilians, manage 90 facilities on base, and support more than 40,000 active duty, reservists, civilians, families and retirees in the local community.

Some of the challenges associated with this merger include the resistance to change.

"Obviously whenever you bring two distinctly diverse squadrons together, lots of challenges exist," Major Swenson said. "Having done this twice, I can tell you the biggest challenge here was working through this monumental organizational change while the 1st SOMSS was concurrently driving the base-level service delivery model change."

Whatever mixed feelings each of the two squadrons' personnel may feel, the drive to support the base and its population are still forefront on the minds of the individuals in both of these squadrons.

"As with all change, some are resistant, others apprehensive, while still others are excited about the opportunities gained," Major Menendez said.

For this purpose, the logistical decisions as far as moving, structural changes and deciding on who reports to whom, were made early on. Some of the changes were directed by the Air Force.

Enlisted Airmen currently don't need to worry about changes to their Air Force Specialty Code. For now, only officers and squadron leadership at the superintendent level will combine. All of the enlisted specialties will remain distinct.

"There is great caution being exhibited to ensure the merger does not dilute the unique experience and qualifications each specialty brings to the fight, while also recognizing the need to streamline at the senior management levels," Major Menendez said.

Despite all the challenges the merger may bring, leadership remains optimistic.

"The key to success in any venture is communication ... and both squadrons have done a very good job of being open, honest and frequent with updates," Major Swenson said. "While some may have the worry of how the merger affects them personally, we've seen a very positive, proactive attitude from both squadrons. In particular, the merger mixers we've had were met with overwhelming enthusiasm and a team-centered focus."

In essence, the entire 1st Special Operations Wing will benefit because all of the people programs will be brought together under one leader with one focus, making the mission support more effective for the Air Commandos.

"The significance of this merger is that this effort is truly transformational," Colonel Smietana said. "It's not just a merger on paper because there will be new organizational names, new flags and a new identity. We've leveraged technology to make our processes more efficient. Hopefully the customers will notice improved service as well."

A ceremony marking the official merger will be held at 9 a.m. June 20 at the Hurlburt Field Marina.



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