JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --
Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, has emphasized an initiative to utilize ACC’s A1, Manpower, Personnel and Services directorate, to re-establish commander support staffs in squadrons across the command.
Commander support staffs are offices that include primarily personnel specialists under the 3F0X1 Air Force Specialty Code and administration specialists under the 3F5X1 AFSC. These experts predominantly focus on personnel and administration related duties in a squadron. CSSs also consist of civilians who concentrate their responsibilities specifically on administrative and personnel actions.
Simply put, whether officer, enlisted, civilian or a combination of all three, the CSS enables commanders and Airmen at all levels to focus on the primary missions in their organizations.
“They’re professionals at this, they’ve been trained on this and they come from a background in conducting personnel or administrative tasks,” said Col. Clinton Ross, director of ACC A1. “And so it’s a real asset to those units out there.”
The CSS re-establishment is part of an effort to support the ACC Strategic Plan as it helps commanders prepare combat-ready squadrons. The CSSs will also help Airmen meet one of the National Defense Strategy’s priorities of delivering performance at the speed of relevance.
Airmen across the Air Force who don’t have CSS functions in their squadrons lose hours from their primary duties to face administrative challenges.
“If you are just kind of making that up as you go, ignoring it or allowing someone to leave the unit for several hours to drive around the base as they find that building, (it could create barriers),” Ross said. “So the commander support staffs are able to impact that immediately. (Airmen can) go into the CSS (to get help with) whatever their issue is, and (when finished, Airmen) are back out there on the flightline or back out there working in the maintenance bay working on their mission, and we don’t have lost time.”
According to a 2018 report by Brig. Gen. Stephen L. Davis and the Air Force Core Team, titled, Improving Air Force Squadrons, Recommendations for Vitality, Airmen have defined barriers to success as anything that prevents them from focusing all efforts on achieving their squadrons’ mission. These barriers could be alleviated by creating better manning policies, lessening additional duties, increasing trust in squadron commanders to make decisions, and revising policies that detract from mission success.
As the CSS of a squadron can help identify and eliminate barriers, it also can enable commanders at all levels to better meet mission objectives and align themselves closer with the instructions in the NDS. Some of these efforts include making processes responsive to need by prioritizing the speed of delivery, continuous adaptation, and frequent enhancements to processes and resources.
Another benefit commander support staffs offer is professional development.
“The Airmen assigned to a CSS benefit from learning intimately what mission they are supporting, and gaining a new perspective outside their career field,” said CMSgt. Trisha Malec, chief enlisted manager of ACC A1, and 3F0X1 functional manager. “The CSS Airmen get to know everyone assigned to the squadron, clearly seeing the connection and bigger picture of how their efforts enhance mission readiness.”
“Understanding how to support various mission sets within each squadron also helps the CSS Airmen to grow in leadership roles,” Malec said. “They are empowered to be innovative and a strategic manager of commander programs. This strengthens the squadron leadership team, and maximizes resources and overall mission capabilities.”
This CSS experience benefits not only enlisted Airmen but also the company grade officers performing as section commanders.
“These are typically lieutenants and young captains that are part of a larger squadron,” Ross said. “They run that commander support staff for the commander.”
The CGOs in a commander support staff are able to take on Uniform Code of Military Justice actions and sign non-promotion eligible enlisted evaluations, which in turn reduces the workload for squadron commanders and other senior leaders.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for our young officers, because I equate it to squadron command with training wheels,” Ross said. “You’re not actually the commander, but you get to do many of the things that a commander does, so it’s a great developmental opportunity. We look forward to getting our section commanders out there into the commander support staffs.”
Throughout the last 12 months, one of the biggest challenges ACC overcame involved filling spaces for CSS slots across the command.
“We were able to foot-stomp the priority from General Holmes to the wings on why we need to get these priorities established,” Ross said. “When it comes to hiring timelines, whether they’re officer, enlisted or civilian, it’s not a quick overnight thing. You can’t just flip a switch and have them show up.”
The culmination of A1’s deliberate manpower efforts resulted in an increase of the fruits of their labor – more slots in three focus areas of officer, enlisted and civilian administration and personnel specialists.
“There is an inventory challenge there and we move at the speed at which the Air Force accesses, trains and assigns those Airmen,” Ross said. “The Air Force Personnel Center has been fantastic in working with us on ACC’s priority to fill civilian (slots).”
ACC’s civilian CSS positions have grown from 40 percent to 80 percent over the last 12 months.
“For our section commanders, we have 75 authorized across ACC, but because we have some limitations on inventory, we’re 50 percent filled right now,” Ross said. “But the good news is that we actually have projected numbers from AFPC throughout the end of the summer and into early fall that we expect to have ACC’s section commander (slots) filled at 100 percent.”
On the enlisted side, there are a tremendous amount of three-level Airmen who are hungry for learning more about their jobs, Ross said.
“We’re growing those three levels into five levels and future supervisors,” Ross said. “Those numbers are in the high 90s across ACC on the fills.”
To learn more about how ACC is leading the charge with re-establishing CSSs, watch the full podcast here.