Experience key to tackling challenges

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- A common theme across the Air Force today is efficiency. We are consistently trying to improve operations while saving money and manpower while maintaining our role as the world's greatest Air Force. Throughout the past year, I have had the privilege of working on an efficiency that has never happened in the Air Force - consolidating three installation command posts into one here at Peterson Air Force Base.

This regionalization decision was not made in haste. In fact, before it the regionalization was considered the Air Force conducted an Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century study in 2011 to explore this capability. The Peterson Command Post was identified to combine with Schriever Air Force Base and U.S. Air Force Academy command posts to form the first regional command post for the Air Force. The project was delayed and did not get under way until 2013 due to the need for funding to modify the existing infrastructure, connect the three bases to allow consolidated operations and the ongoing budget constraints.

I took over as chief of the Peterson Command Post as the regionalization project was ramping up, and I had a lot of catching up to do. Not only did I have to learn the Peterson Command Post job, there was the addition of ensuring all the pieces came together to consolidate the command posts from the 21st, 50th and 310th Space Wings, 302nd Airlift Wing and 10th Air Base Wing into one. Luckily, I had an outstanding team of Airmen that were already facing the challenges and I was able to utilize them to quickly bring me up to speed. Second lieutenants are advised to find good senior NCOs to learn from, that advice also works for lieutenant colonels.

As with any large project, there have been many challenges to address, each requiring a unique approach to ensure success. One challenge was to make sure there would be enough room for the new equipment and personnel. For this, we turned to the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron to expand our alternate location to accommodate the additions. We also needed to connect all three bases and bring new systems on line to allow the controllers to receive and relay information to and from each of the individual bases and wing commanders. This action was contracted out, so we had to go through the contracting process to make this happen.

Despite meticulous planning at all levels, changes inevitably occurred throughout implementation. Various projects were delayed for numerous reasons and adjustments were made to timelines to ensure success. While all of these changes were occurring, the missions at the five separate wings had to continue uninterrupted. This required a balance between disrupting operations to allow upgrades and maintaining a working infrastructure at all times.

Jumping into the middle of a large project like the CSRCP was very challenging and created a unique leadership opportunity for me. Luckily, I was able to draw from previous experiences with other projects and was backed up by a strong team at all levels to make things happen. Now that the CSRCP is reaching IOC and I have become the chief of the first regional command post in the Air Force, my challenge will continue as "the bugs are worked out" and everyone gets accustomed to the new construct.

As you go through your Air Force career, take every challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow as a leader because you never know when you will have to rely on even the smallest experience to get you through the next challenge.