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Innovation key to special ops mission

Innovative minds

Kayla Thomas, records management lead with Sierra Nevada Corporation, explains the process for documenting daily maintenance on C-146A aircraft at Duke Field, Fla., to Brig. Gen. Stan Sheley, Director of Strategic Alignment, Air Force Reserve Command, March 19, 2019. The records management section keeps track of usage, time intervals between inspections and airworthiness of aircraft for aircrew to review prior to daily flight operations. A local initiative to automate this process is underway which should save time and increase efficiency among the maintenance professionals at Duke Field.

DUKE FIELD, Fla. -- The Citizen Air Commandos of the 919th Special Operations Wing hosted one of the Air Force Reserve's foremost proponents of innovation during a visit here March 18-19.

Brig. Gen. Stan Sheley was appointed by Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee, commander of the Air Force Reserve, to lead the command’s innovation campaign examining new ideas from across the force in order to align priorities and objectives and revitalize its squadrons.

Col. Frank Bradfield, the 919th SOW's commander, invited Sheley to visit the wing in order to showcase the innovative spirit fostered by Airmen at all levels here. The 919th SOW has a unique mission in the Air Force Reserve supporting several customers in the special operations community, and that often means they encounter unique mission requirements and challenges.

"In meeting the requirements and objectives of our partners and customers, there is no status quo," said Bradfield. "We simply find a way or make one!"

Sheley's visit allowed him to spend time at both Duke Field and Hurlburt Field, meeting with Citizen Airmen from squadrons across the wing and gaining insight into the work done here.

"This unit is extremely mission focused," said Sheley. "The approach to innovation here has left an indelible mark on me. It doesn't just come from one person. It's widespread across the wing."

The wing is establishing an innovation lab that will serve as a hub for capturing new ideas making it easier for Airmen at the lowest levels to effect change across the organization. Sheley saw plans for the center and heard proposals for innovative programs aimed at saving money and time allowing members to enhance the effectiveness of their daily operations.

The general observed early in the visit the unique nature of the work that takes place within the 919th SOW often requires outside-the-box thinking and problem solving.

"I think much of the innovative culture here is related to the special operations mission," said Sheley. "You have to be light, lean and lethal. "The special operator is bred differently. You have to see things differently and are constantly challenged to find creative ways to get the job done."

Sheley was able to see that mentality in action, providing him with a clear understanding of how the wing tackles its diverse mission set.

"I'm proud of the innovative and resilient mindset of our members who continue to improve readiness and lethality," said Bradfield.

Currently, 919th SOW members are working on several projects using the Air Force approved Squadron Innovation Funds. Their ideas are intended to illustrate while Airmen may be confronted with problems on a regular basis, they aren't constrained by them.