JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas
– Innovation was alive here this week, as senior leaders heard proposals May 16 to address some of the greatest challenges facing the agile combat support community at the conclusion of the 2nd Annual Installation and Mission Support Weapons and Tactics Conference, hosted by the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center.
Four teams presented innovative recommendations for infrastructure investment, resilient and agile support operations, and development of multi-function combat Airmen to a packed auditorium of nearly 1,000 Airmen from across the force and Joint Base San Antonio.
The out-briefs culminate a process that began in late 2017 when warfighters from across the Air Force submitted more than 50 challenges in need of solutions. Leaders narrowed the list to the four most critical topics and four teams, called mission area working groups made up of more than 100 Airmen and joint service members from dozens of functional communities, convened in January to tackle them.
“Our most innovative ideas really come from the field,” said John Henderson, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and energy, “and we don’t get a chance to link those ideas up unless we bring people together, we discuss them and we bring our senior leaders in to see what those solutions are and how they might influence policy. I-WEPTAC is extremely important for the Air Force enterprise.”
“What’s great about this event is that it’s a forum for innovation,” said Maj. Gen. Brad Spacy, AFIMSC commander. “Our goal is to get ideas from our Airmen into action. We know the ideas are out there – our Airmen are coming up with them.”
The teams developed their proposed courses of action in a lean environment that wasn’t “top heavy with bureaucracy,” said Marc Vandeveer, senior mentor for this year’s working groups and a member of the AFIMSC Expeditionary Support Directorate.
This allowed them to find answers to challenges in relatively quick succession.
“Left to other means, it may take years to do, and we’re doing it in weeks and months,” he added.
That type of dynamic wouldn’t have been possible without cross-functional teams.
The diverse group of Airmen around the table allowed each person to “think differently and invest differently within our infrastructure,” said Capt. Brendan Dorsey-Spitz, a working group chairman and member of AFIMSC’s Expeditionary Support Directorate.
The innovative ideas developed in his group coupled with available technologies “allowed us to get after the problem sets,” he said.
By bringing in “the folks who are doing the mission right now and having them think creatively and collaborate collectively to come up with the best ideas, I truly believe what comes out of I-WEPTAC will ensure the agility of combat support in the future,” said Lt. Col. Steve Thomas, AFIMSC Plans and Analysis Division chief and this year’s conference chairman.
Air Force leaders will now take the teams’ proposals under consideration for action. They selected 17 recommendations from the inaugural I-WEPTAC in 2017. Those are now staffed for further analysis and action.
“Having our senior leaders involved is important, because these are the people who are going to digest the ideas presented here today and figure out if and how they should work in the policy guidance for the Air Force,” Spacy said. “They might not turn out on the ground exactly as presented. There may be elements pulled from problem sets being brought from other parts of the enterprise. That’s the exciting part of this forum and energy.”
AFIMSC activated in 2015 and centralized more than 150 major command and Headquarters Air Force agile combat support capabilities under a single headquarters at JBSA-Lackland. That consolidation served as the springboard for I-WEPTAC because of this enterprise-wide view the Air Force didn’t have before. AFIMSC comprises its headquarters, 10 detachments and six subordinate units that operate at more than 70 locations across the globe.