At a commander’s call July 16, Maj. Gen. Arnold Bunch, Air Force Test Center commander, expressed a great deal of gratitude for the members of the 412th Test Wing. This was for both their excellence in service and in their patience with current and upcoming budget impacts.
Bunch recognized several Team Edwards members for achieving 40-years of Federal service and said anyone achieving that many years of dedication to the military deserves “a lot of ‘at-a-boys.'”
Forty-year service certificates were handed out to David Austin, United States Air Force Test Pilot School director of operations; Edward Calderon, 412th Maintenance Group; Eddie Fletcher, 412 TW Ground Safety; David Roberts, 412th MXG; Richard Bucholtz, 412th TW and Richard Gomez, 412th Communications Squadron.
Receiving recognition from Edwards AFB for the first AFTC Annual Awards was Master Sgt. William Russell who was selected as First Sergeant of the Year; and from the test pilot school, Capt. David J. Aparicio was awarded at the Air Force-level the Air Force Association Aerospace Award, Theodore Von Karman category.
John McIntyre, 412th TW Ground Safety, was recognized for receiving an Air Force-level Well Done Award. McIntyre was able to rebuild confidence with the maintainers following an incident where ground troops on the 416th flightline were inadvertently exposed to radiation from an F-16 V9 radar.
Following the awards Bunch went into a discussion about AFTC which just celebrated its one-year anniversary.
“Our mission set is extremely diverse,” said Bunch, “While I had a good understanding of a lot of our test capabilities and customers, I did not fully understand the breadth of work you were accomplishing and the diversity of customers you serve.”
Bunch said that AFTC is now an “enterprise that covers the whole spectrum.” He added that some outside groups have not acknowledged AFTC as an enterprise and attempt to drive to a site-focused solution and foster site competition rather than working as a team.
“You can merge an ABW [Air Base Wing] and TW,” said Bunch, “The merger was one of the bigger concerns expressed by many as we moved into the new 5-center construct.”
According to Bunch, the major benefit of merging was creating a more unified mission by aligning the resources, responsibility, and accountably of three centers all operating under one commander. Up to that point, the first link between the centers was at the four-star general level, who was left with the final decision on any conflict or issue in flight test.
Instead of trying to explain the range of testing preformed by AFTC, Bunch shared a video that showed, in less than five minutes, the unified business of AFTC. The video featured the modeling and simulation that are done at Arnold AFB, Tenn., the ground testing done on sled tracks at Eglin AFB, Fla., and the testing done here at Edwards, both ground and flight.
“While we have done great things, we have not reached our destination and honestly we have a long way left in the journey,” said Bunch. “So I need and expect your continued support.”
AFTC is accomplishing the “business of test” in similar, yet very different ways at each site. One of the major goals in the coming months is to achieve as much standardization of site-focused processes and procedures as possible.
“We must evolve to be more ‘alike’ in the future,” said Bunch
“We have pockets of the AFTC enterprise working hand-in-hand every day, but we also have pockets that don’t know their counterparts working in the same mission area at the other sites. So, we have work to do.”
He said each site has a slightly different approach on how they execute the business of test. It’s the same or very similar testing, just handled differently. His two initial focus areas for standardization are test safety and customer agreements.
“Where possible, each site should have similar procedures for safe practices and safety reviews to operate more efficiently.”
The goal in standardizing customer agreements is to insure that a customer receives a similar product at any of the sites, especially in regards to quality.
Bunch also stressed the importance of sharing resources across the enterprise.
“We need to look for opportunities to share assets, human capital, test capability…before we spend funds. We must be fiscally responsible in our day-to-day activities.”
Bunch noted that the greatest resource available to the U.S. Air Force and to the AFTC is its people.
With that, he ended the commander’s call by offering a reminder to drive safely and be good Wingmen to each other. He emphasized to the Edwards workforce to pay attention to their coworkers and offer help if they suspect help is needed.
“Be as intrusive as you can [politely],” said Bunch, adding that it could make a big difference for someone dealing with a tough situation.
“The AFTC team is even more talented than I anticipated. Each day I see Herculean efforts by individuals and teams to accomplish test or test support across the enterprise that make me even more appreciative of this team’s talents,” said Bunch, “AFTC’s vision is to be the “Test of Choice … Today and Tomorrow.” We can only achieve that vision if we team with an enterprise focus. This is especially true given the fiscal realities we now face.”