Squadron Commander Symposium Kicks Off in Kansas

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  • By Maj Andrea Morris
  • 931 arw

In early June, the 931st Air Refueling Wing at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, hosted the first of three Regional Squadron Commander Symposiums in Fourth Air Force. This course is the first in-person training for unit-level leaders in over 10 years due to recent budget constraints. Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Pennington, Fourth Air Force Commander, was in attendance for the entire two-day event, emphasizing the importance of readiness and relaying Gen. Charles Brown Jr., Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s, action order of accelerate change or lose.

The symposium kicked off with opening comments from Gen. Pennington, followed by a briefing on Diversity and Inclusion from Mr. G. Lee Floyd, Air Force Reserve Command’s Chief of Diversity and Inclusion Branch.  There were also briefings from AFRC representatives for Finance, personnel updates, Judge Advocate issues, as well as classified briefings on pacing threats and current intelligence.

According to Gen. Pennington, this course includes “Classified briefs that increase the sense of urgency and awareness of our leaders at the unit level about why and how to shift their focus to be ready for the future fight.”

Major Bjorn Langefeld, 445 MXS Commander was one of the commanders participating in the two-day course. “I really appreciated getting a brief from AFRC A1 and FM to understand how our unit fits into the AFRC manning plan as well as the budget,” Langefeld said. “One hour with the AFRC comptroller gave me a much clearer picture of O&M as well as RPA funding that I could take back and communicate to my unit.  The information not only helps us execute the rest of FY22, but also gave us a good roadmap on how to plan FY23 spending.”

On the second day of the symposium, all members of the course participated in a training scenario involving a simulated threat that included real-life refueling of multiple aircraft on the newest Air Refueling platform, the KC-46 Pegasus. During this scenario, members of the Air National Guard, also stationed at McConnell Air Force Base, were included. The 184th Wing provided the "electronic Battle," where they created and transferred a realistic digital battle space for the KC-46 aircrews to react and operate within.  In this scenario, the aircrews had to defend themselves while still retaining an offensive posture so they could provide fuel to the fight. The 184th also assigned three highly-trained personnel in Tactical Data Link and were able to link the battle created on the ground with the crews flying the missions. This joint effort made a more-realistic experience for the members of the course as well as the pilots and boom operators involved.

"We wanted to make this event a truly collaborative experience for everyone involved,” said Colonel Matthew Basler, 931st Mission Support Group Commander. “I felt we had the right mix of informative briefings, hands-on exercises, and social events that allowed leaders to get to know one another. This event fostered an environment where leaders could share their experiences - good and bad - so that we could all grow together."

Colonel Phil Heseltine Jr., 931st Air Refueling Wing Commander was also enthusiastic about the results of the course. "The 931 ARW Kanza Warriors were extremely proud to host the inaugural 4th Air Force Regional Squadron Commander's Symposium,” said Heseltine, “The interaction among and across the AFRC Headquarters Staff, four participating wings plus members of the 22d Air Refueling Wing and 184th Wing of the Kansas Air National Guard culminating with the execution of a real-world application of KC-46 mission capabilities significantly enhanced Warriors across the total force."

Balser agrees and adds, "The first-ever leadership symposium was a smashing success!  We look forward to hosting the next one!"