COMMENTARY: Celebrating excellence in each other and all that we do

  • Published
  • By Capt. Katelyn
  • 960 AACS

I am an E-3 Instructor Navigator and an Assistant Flight Commander in the 960th AACS. I am married to Capt. CJ who is an Aircraft Commander in the same squadron. I am an Air Force brat but call Panama City, Fla., my home. I joined Air Force ROTC at Florida State University in August of 2009 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in May of 2012. I finished Combat Systems Officer training in Nov. of 2013 and was selected to be an E-3 AWACS Navigator at Tinker AFB. I have been qualified in the E-3 since May of 2014 and became an instructor in Sept. of 2015. I have more than 1,500 hours in the E-3 with over 800 combat hours on 2 deployments.

As members of the best Air Force the world has ever known, the Vikings are committed to our Air Force Core Value of “excellence.” Excellence is a commonly used word in the 552nd ACW and in the 960th AACS. It is the cornerstone of what we try to achieve every day and on every mission. As Airmen, we also train hard to be the best at what we do — to excel on a personal level and as a team.

As an E-3 AWACS Instructor Navigator and Assistant Flight Commander in the 960th AACS, I have the privilege of leading 28 Airborne Radar Technicians and Computer Display Maintenance Technicians. In this role, I demand personal and professional excellence from myself, my students, and from my Airmen. When I instruct, I strive to give my students as many opportunities to excel on the jet and prove to me their dedication to the mission and in developing their airmanship. Being an E-3 operator is a challenge and requires absolute tactical excellence which is why I push my students to bring their “A game” every time we fly. As a Flight Commander, I also aim to build a culture that rewards hard work and cultivates excellence on a personal level. Flight Command requires I nurture the goals, technical skills, and personal talents of my Airmen so they can maintain, sustain, and employ the $500 million aircraft we fly. Many of the personnel and mission-type decisions I make on a daily basis are important and can be career impacting or life altering. Excellence in this position requires complete dedication to my members and inspiring them to be excellent, too.

Just like the Air Force, the Vikings place a high premium on team excellence. Because we work on a jet with typically 25-30 crew members, each with highly specialized skills, it is imperative we come together as a team to employ our platform with excellence. We pack our daily sorties with training events to maximize integration and build combat-ready operators.

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in Red Flag 17-2, a coalition large force exercise in Las Vegas. One evening, our platform was critical in controlling over 60 airborne assets during a strategic attack combat scenario. From the front of the jet to the back - we were one integrated team working to meet our exercise component commander’s operational objectives. Naturally, the combat scenario went well, and the Vikings (call sign “Goliath”) crushed it.

As Vikings, we pride ourselves in being tactically savvy and we enjoy our reputation as a highly sought-after squadron to train with. We use exercises and combat scenarios to ensure we are the best at what we do and that we can confidently carry this tactical excellence with us on our deployments. Our mission to provide first class command, control, and battle management to an area of responsibility is pivotal in support of joint, allied, and coalition operations worldwide. The squadron, as our Air Force’s core warfighting unit, must demand, expect, and inspire excellence in each other and in everything we do. I am proud to say that the Vikings displayed unparalleled excellence during the exercise. We are also committed to being part of a 552nd ACW team that includes the most in-demand command and control experts in the Air Force.

To close my thoughts on excellence, I’m excited to belong to a wing and a squadron that celebrates this core value. It goes without saying, I’m a proud member of the 552nd ACW and the 960th AACS Vikings... and I am a proud American in the one and only “America’s Wing.” Valhalla!