Offutt squadrons to merge forces

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- When it comes to people programs, community support and quality of life, there will soon be one organization on base that will handle it all - the force support squadron. The 55th Services Squadron and the 55th Mission Support Squadron merged Wednesday and became the 55th Force Support Squadron.

The new organization is the result of an ongoing Air Force-wide merger of mission support and services squadrons and is expected to be completed by early 2010 when the last base merges its squadrons. Offutt is the seventh ACC base to merge.

The new squadron helps streamline processes, maximize customer service and cuts costs associated with maintaining separate organizations, said Lt. Col. J.P. Pearson, 55th FSS commander.

"Because we're a leaner force, we need to focus on getting our people and organizations to operate at maximum efficiency," said Lt. Col. Diana Wyrtki, former 55th Services Squdron commander "This reorganization puts Offutt manpower, personnel and services capabilities under one leadership 'hat,' which reduces overhead and gives our people the flexibility to be more responsive to customer needs."

The new FSS includes five flights: force development, manpower and personnel, Airmen and family services, sustainment services and community services. The new structure combines similar functional areas that already work closely together. For example, the Airmen and family services flight combines youth programs, child development programs, family child care, with the Airman and Family Readiness Center.

"This is basically a behind-the-scenes change and should appear transparent to most Airmen here," said Colonel Pearson. "If someone needs to go get an ID card or personal financial assistance, that person will still go to the same location they're familiar with today. We'll now have a more effective force structure in place to better support our Airmen and their families."

Six Air Force bases across six commands were selected early last year to test the new squadron model. The test bases (Edwards, Eielson, F.E. Warren, Grand Forks, Laughlin and Minot), helped further define where specific responsibilities and processes should be organized.

"The test reports indicated mergers haven't been without challenges," said Colonel Wyrtki. "They had to re-establish lines of communication, move some people around and overcome cultural differences between the functions. But, even with the difficulties, we're already seeing the benefits of combining these assets at other bases."

Colonel Pearson cited the new force development flight as an example of positive synergies and efficiencies coming. "The new force development flight commander is responsible for all education, training, library, professional development and professional military education," he said. "It's advantageous for the wing to have one person overseeing and integrating the learning opportunities for the installation."

The merger is also advantageous for the careers of future force support officers and civilians.
"This reorganization opens up career opportunities that we haven't seen before," said Lt Col Phillip Moessner, 55th Mission Support Group deputy commander. "Our people will now have the opportunity to gain valuable experience across different functional areas and ensure they have all the core competencies needed to assume greater leadership and management roles."

The bottom line is there is a new name--force support squadron--in place of what was mission support and services at Offutt. Leaders of the new 55th FSS said one thing will not change: the dedicated professionals of this newly merged organization will continue to provide world-class support to all Offutt customers!