Relationships facilitate mission success

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Tony Retka
  • 35th Fighter Squadron commander
A mentor of mine once said, "Relationships matter, that's how we get things done in the Air Force."

My squadron recently deployed to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska to conduct training on one of our nation's premier air-to-surface bombing ranges in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex.

Among other tasks, our training plan involved conducting close air support missions with US, Canadian and Belgian special operation ground forces.

We coordinated for months to ensure the range and airspace would be available for our use during our scheduled fly window. The Friday prior to our first flights, the range control officers informed us , the special operations forces would not be able to access the range due to a scheduling mix up. As a result, our squadron would not be able to conduct our training and employ our scheduled munitions as planned.

After some inquiring, we learned there was a U.S. Army aviation battalion scheduled to conduct their annual training at the same time, on the same range as our squadron. Range management informed us that the range memorandum of agreement stipulated the Army had priority for scheduling and use of the range.

Needless to say, I was not very pleased with this information since we had planned for many months and spent a lot of money to ensure we could accomplish this training. Range management was not willing or able to coordinate range time for us and it appeared that we would lose out on some very valuable training.

Having spent three years at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where I attended Army Command and General Staff College and followed on to teach Air Force doctrine to Army majors, I gained an understanding for how things get done in the Army.

I thought if I were able to talk with the Army aviation battalion leadership, we might be able to work out a solution at the unit level to ensure all parties involved could get their desired training objectives accomplished.

Since the Army was conducting field training with very limited communications capability, the most expeditious way for me to talk to them was to go visit them in the field. Two of the special operations soldiers, one of my flight commanders, and me jumped in a vehicle and drove out to their forward operating base to meet with their operations officer.

We opened the meeting by explaining to them our situation along with our training objectives. After the forty-five minute meeting we were able to work out a mutually beneficial arrangement that would allow all parties to accomplish their missions and get their desired training.

The positive outcome of this meeting and the fact that my squadron was able to achieve the objectives of our deployment was a direct result of a professional relationship formed between the battalion operations officer and myself. We were able to bypass the middleman (range control) and coordinate a solution to meet the commander's intent for two services from three nations.