552nd ACW commander sets sights on culture change

  • Published
  • By Kimberly Woodruff 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
  • 552nd Air Control Wing

To say Col. Keven Coyle’s first 90 days in command of the 552nd Air Control Wing have been eventful is an understatement.

In addition to hosting many visitors -- including the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and the commander of Air Combat Command -- the wing held exercises to test capabilities, discovered “easy fix” kinds of things and faced aircraft challenges and an investigation from the 15th Air Force. Through it all, the commander says lessons learned over the last three months will help guide the wing to a brighter future.

To be successful, Coyle’s top priority is focused on changing the culture throughout the wing. 

“We need to reset the culture a bit,” he said. “We need a change in mindset for the aircrews and support teams. We need to look at the way we do business as a contributor to our nation’s business in everything we do. I don’t know that our Airmen at the lowest echelon know how they fit — there is a disconnect and we have to figure out how to bridge the gap.”

Coyle said the culture shift won’t happen overnight and will be a lot of work, but the payoff will be worth it in the end.

“Over the next couple of years we will be building a culture of ‘warrior ethos’ and the desire to serve, to serve hard and to serve well,” the colonel said. “The benefits are the fruits of our labor such as seeing a jet deploy or a CRC [Control and Reporting Center] to get out the door, or having equipment working in the green.”

Coyle recognizes that sometimes it is possible for Airmen to feel like they are in a thankless job and leaders need to do a better job of expressing their gratitude.

“Over a time of doing the job and not getting any thanks, a person could start to believe that what they are doing isn’t worthy,” said Coyle. “We should openly recognize those doing the work, and unfortunately, that isn’t always happening. I’m not saying there is a trophy every time, but there are folks getting the jet ready, getting our crews ready and that is intensely important, and they aren’t thanked often enough.”

Like the culture change, Coyle’s priority of stabilizing the team will take time as wing leadership figures out what stability should look like.

“We’ll figure out how to maintain that combat capability and combat edge to compete,” he said. “We’ve been running really hard, really fast for the last few years and it is time to pull back the throttle and reevaluate the right pace so we don’t burn out our Airmen and make them leave the Air Force.”

Coyle’s final priority focuses on the health of the fleet.

A healthy fleet not only encompasses the jets, but also includes the ground capabilities and getting them coordinated and integrated. Safety plays a big part in that and Coyle said they have identified a lot of easy fixes to work on.

“In the long term, we’re going to focus on the training to be competitive and incorporate talents of enlisted and officers as we build up the battle management platforms,” said Coyle. “We have to ask ourselves what our adversaries are doing that could cause us trouble.”

The wing leadership started the process of tackling Coyle’s priorities during a week-long command summit held at Tinker earlier this month. Wing members from Hill, Dyess and Mountain Home Air Force Bases joined their counterparts from Tinker for a time of mentorship and team building. The group used that time to reset, learn about the new priorities and focus on a new way of looking at challenges.

During the summit, Dr. Jannell MacAulay introduced the team to mindfulness as a proactive performance strategy. MacAulay -- a combat veteran who served 20 years in the Air Force as a pilot, commander, special operations consultant, and instructor – encouraged them to “be mindful, be active and make that a necessity.”

“We are all leaders — leaders of teams, of friends and family and we have the power to influence,” she said. “Lead from the front and be the example.”