MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. – The 22nd and 931st Operations Support Squadrons were recently awarded the Air Force Association 2013 Verne Orr award in Washington.
The award, which is named in honor of Verne Orr, the 14th secretary of the Air Force, is meant to recognize the mission-oriented unit that most efficiently used their personnel, and it is the total force integration of the active and Reserve operations support squadrons that brought it to McConnell.
“It is, by and large, a fully-integrated team in the OSS,” said Lt. Col. Martin Daack, 22nd OSS commander. “While some units in my squadron, like the tower and airfield management, don’t have Reserve counterparts, the active duty airmen in flights such as aircrew life equipment work side-by-side with their Reserve partners.”
While some of the integration was initially met with resistance, the two units are now so intertwined that it is almost impossible to differentiate between Reserve and active duty in multiple shops.
“If an aircrew member comes up to the window at AFE to check out their helmet for a flight,” said Daack, “there may be a Reservist or there may be an active duty person there, and it is completely transparent. You would have no idea who’s active and who’s Reserve unless you knew them personally.”
It is because of this unique design the airmen in the OSS are still able to provide global reach since the government shutdown.
“With the furlough of all my civilian employees, the 931st Air Refueling Group has had to curtail our flying operations with little or no lead time,” said Col. Mark Larson, 931st ARG commander. “Our active duty counterparts were able to step in and immediately assist in re-planning missions to provide support to our scheduled receivers, thus salvaging many missions and providing necessary training.”
The innate ability of the two squadrons to efficiently accomplish the mission led to many other awards throughout the last year, including multiple major command and Air Force level victories. The combined OSS team won five out of seven available fuel savings initiative awards at last year’s Airlift/Tanker Association convention, said Larson.
The OSS is being used as an example of how a TFI unit should work in the anticipated arrival of the KC-46A tanker.
“It is because of the success we experienced in the OSS that we are anxiously seeking opportunities to combine our flying squadrons in preparation for the hopeful arrival of the KC-46A,” said Larson. “I am continually using them as an example of how to do ‘Total Force’ the right way.”
While the “on-paper” aspects of the squadrons are already outstanding, Larson emphasized that it is the actual, in-person operations that make the OSS stand out.
“As a pilot, I see firsthand the efficiencies created by work sharing and leveraging our respective strengths every time I fly,” he said. “It is a one-stop shop regardless of whether you are active duty or a Reservist. Our processes are standardized and efficient. The OSS model is the way forward.”