|The Langley Crier
"AFA Air Warfare Symposium"
AFA Langley Chapter sponsored an essay contest to select three active duty airmen to
attend the 2018 AFA Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, FL as guests of the Chapter.
TSgt Jessica Field, TSgt Anastasia Simmons and TSgt Bahnan Black were the winners.
Below, in TSgt Black’s words and TSgt Field’s images, is a report on the events of the
Symposium and our Air Force. Thanks to them for their insights!
The Symposium had
a dual purpose. On
one hand, it was an
opportunity for industry
display their developments
air combat technologies.
On the other
hand, it was an opportunity
Force leaders to influence
a culture of
change in the way we operate as a strategic
When referencing the 2018 National Defense
Strategy, our focus has to shift towards
facing a peer status adversary.
There is no one in today’s Air force that
has faced that threat. One of the first
culture changes that has happened this
year is a reduction in Air Force Instructions.
The purpose of this was to place
more responsibility and ownership down
to the Wing and Squadron levels. In a
peer status conflict, there is a real possibility
that we will have degraded communications
that limit our ability to use our formal decision making construct. It
is vitally important that we empower
our airmen to be innovative and
make decisions at the smallest level
rather than micro-managing them
This sets the entire tone for the
Symposium from a culture shift
standpoint. A large portion of this
culture shift must stem from acknowledging
our current shortcomings
that stifle innovation. In most
military organizations there is a frozen
middle ground that prevents those new
ideas from having an audience or being integrated.
Too often our Airmen are faced with a NO from someone in their chain of command
that does not have the power to even say YES. This is
largely based on the thought that truly innovative ideas
cause disruption to our status quo. That disruption
can be uncomfortable and even negative. Now that
we have more control at the Wing level, we must embrace
those disruptive ideas to allow for the positive
cultural transformation that we desire.
One way that we can do this is by creating a Wing culture
of failing forward with ideas and concepts. We
need to help airmen thrive and get to the eventual
YES. Ideas often get dismissed due to assuming they
will fail before they even take off the ground. The first
annual Spark Tank was displayed at the symposium.
Airmen across the Air Force competed. Five teams
were given the opportunity to pitch their ideas to the
Secretary of the Air Force, Chief of Staff, and Chief
Master Sergeant of the Air Force. Staff Sergeants
were able to pitch ideas to the highest level of our Air
Force and were immediately paired with resources to
turn their ideas into reality.
We can do the same thing at our Wing. I think it
would a highly successful initiative with morale, retention, and innovation to implement a Spark Tank at our
base. The core idea behind it is creating open dialogue
beyond the frozen middle. Airmen can be paired directly
with mentorship and resources. Probing questions
should be encouraged and designed to see how we can
remove barriers and realize a reality; not poking holes
or finding a way to say no. We are in an exponentially
evolving game and have to find new ways to win. We
must allow people to flourish and mold their careers and
thrive. Small groups that are allowed to innovate and
even disrupt, being shielded from bureaucracy sets a
tone for how serious we are about positive transformation.
Most will fail. But, the ones that succeed will
pay for the rest.
The Air Force Chief of Staff directly supports this concept.
His remarks, at the symposium, were think big,
start small, and scale quickly. He paired those remarks
with a commitment of 64 million dollars in funding to
wings across the Air Force for innovation. For most of
our history, the military has operated in a risk adverse
manner. When crisis hits, suddenly the reward becomes
more important and we act. This new culture is about
adapting and innovating before crisis hits. The Air Force
has also dedicated programs like AFWERX and AF
CONNECT purely for prototyping ideas and plans.
This focus on innovation culture was meant to compliment
that technology displayed by industry. The Mitchell Institute discussed some revolutionary thinking
regarding our future force sizing strategies. One of
the main focuses for our force posturing is network-centric, multi-domain operations. Industry has made
significant progress toward our need for exponential
growth. There are cutting edge
developments in machine learning,
artificial reality, and data manipulation
that all can play key roles in
the way we establish air superiority
in the future.
That future is closer than we think.
The threat of peer adversaries has
motivated us as an Air Force to
grow and find new ways to Fly, Fight, and Win. The
Chief of Staff, General Goldfein’s main priorities for
new developments in industry and acquisitions for the
Air Force are based on three questions. Does it connect?
Does it share? Does it learn? This is the new
vision of how we fight. Similarly, in his closing remarks,General Holmes tied innovation and industry
developments together perfectly. "The warfighter’s
edge is innovative airmen that have support to be disruptive.”
Essentially, we won’t maintain pace with
peer adversaries by building more airplanes or lobbying
for a bigger defense budget.
In summary, I am inspired and humbled to have attended
this event. I was surrounded by so many great military
minds and strategic thinking. I love the direction that we
are heading as a force and am reinvigorated to my role
as a part of that team. To me, our edge is our compassion
for our people. Adversaries may be able to stand
equal ground from a technological
view but they can never match the
value we place on individuals at every
level in our Chain of Command. Opportunities
like this Symposium are
fantastic ways to display that value to
our Airmen and motivate their involvement.
I would like to make
these events more accessible to our
Airmen in the future. It is so important
that I would be willing to pledge financial support
Thank you for the opportunity and the value you place
on my input.
TSgt Bahnan Black, Virginia ANG
Intelligence Operations Analyst
192 Operations Support Squadron
|The Langley Crier is a publication of the Langley Chapter 323 of the Air Force Association, P.O. Box 7370, Riverdale Station, Hampton, VA 23666
For Information or Questions:
Buster Douglas: 850.218.4015 or Steven Bryan: 757.880.6540
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