The Light Switch Effect

  • Published
  • By Col. Kirsten G. Aguilar
  • 21st Mission Support Group

“When you walk into a room and you look at the light switch on the wall, unless you’re an electrician, you really don’t have any idea what’s behind the wall. But every time you flip the switch, the light comes on,” said our former chief of staff, retired Gen. Mark Welsh, at a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Every day, people across Peterson Air Force Base and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station walk into a room and flip the light switch trusting the lights will turn on without issue. Things happen at the flip of a switch because of the Airmen in the 21st Mission Support Group. We are firefighters, childcare providers, supply technicians, contract specialists, chefs and so much more. We come to work every day and take care of our mission, delivering support to you, the warfighter, so you can take care of your mission. While we make sure the lights turn on literally and figuratively, there is so much more we do. Allow me to introduce you to just a few of the Airmen behind the wall.

Mr. Andrew Peters and the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and energy monitoring and control systems team are on the front lines monitoring and responding to all aspects of our aging and often-finicky HVAC systems. The average customer may not know what Mr. Peters and the team do without anyone having to call the CE customer service line. Base EMCS networks monitor and notify technicians of issues with the HVAC systems on Peterson 24/7, typically before customers even know there is an issue. In mild weather, EMCS issues about 10-20 notifications a day to Mr. Peters and the team. In extreme temperatures, they respond to as many as 50 alarms every day, at all hours, behind the scenes, quietly ensuring base missions continue. Yes, our base infrastructure is aging and in need of an upgrade, but thanks to Mr. Peters and his team, we are able to sustain our buildings and keep the many missions supported by the 21st Space Wing functioning.

If you think our defenders are just operating the gates and checking your ID cards, allow me to enlighten you, because our defenders do so much more. From the daunting task of clearing all commercial vehicles that enter base, to monitoring the more than 1,000 alarms in CMAFS, to patrolling the streets of Peterson AFB, our defenders are always on watch ensuring our installations stay secure. Defenders like Airman 1st Class Aliah Leon, from Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin who joined the Air Force because she wanted to make a difference, and she’s doing that every day behind the scenes. She’s now on flight, working 12-hour shifts, which really is about 14-hour days after arming up and guard mount. Just a few months ago, she was one of our defenders operating the commercial service vehicle area at the east gate.

Did you know that our defenders utilize explosive detection equipment to search the vehicles for harmful, dangerous and illicit items? In 2018 alone, our team searched over 21,000 vehicles, vetted over 26,000 people, denied access to over 150 vehicles, discovered hefty amounts of narcotics and prevented 51 drivers from entering the base. We can rest easy thanks to the defenders who are our sentinels and protectors.

How many of you think the 21st Force Support Squadron is just the military personnel flight, fitness center, dining facility, and The Club? Trust me, there’s way more than just that! If you have been selected for a military formal training course, it’s likely you’ve met Mr. Timothy L. Keck, a 16-year 21st Space Wing veteran. Mr. Keck is laser focused on getting his customers to school with no processing issues. Many of his customers are separating or retiring, and he ensures their DD Form 214s accurately reflect their military training history. He often stays late to work issues that are sometimes complicated; he uses his network, a network that’s been built over many years, to ensure things are done right. Mr. Keck doesn’t come to work every day looking for gratitude or thanks. He finds satisfaction in knowing he’s done all he can for our Airmen so they can focus on their mission. In his 16 years at Peterson, he’s assisted 16,750 warfighters in attending formal training. We need civilian Airmen like Mr. Keck to work behind the scenes, with no expectation of recognition, to ensure our Air Force mission gets done. 

Don’t forget our cyber sentinels at CMAFS working 24/7 in the mission systems center or serving on our cyber defense team. These cyber professionals are hard at work ensuring the no-fail integrated tactical warning/attack assessment mission, which provides accurate, timely and unambiguous warning and attack assessment of air, missile and space threats, is accomplished every day. Our crews are busy day in, day out correlating data from our ground based radar sites around the world. I’m grateful to our cyber warriors on watch 24/7 in the mission systems center, but there’s plenty more work to be done, and as the Air Force continues to build specialized cyber teams charged with defending critical weapon systems from cyberattacks, I’m glad there are Airmen like 2nd Lt. Derrick Potter at the helm. Potter and his mission defense team are responsible for ensuring the 21st SW weapon systems maintain full mission capable status and are not vulnerable to cyberattacks. So before you click that link for free football tickets and earn that chance to try to defeat Tina, your Cyber Awareness Training office friend, at her own cyber game, remember what Potter and his team of cyber sentinels are doing to keep our networks secure.

Have you ever taken a look at your work center and thought about redesigning it? If so, you’ll need the help of 1st Lt. Blaise Muluh, the contracting infrastructure flight officer in charge. Muluh and his team are responsible for negotiating terms and conditions for base maintenance services and are also responsible for ensuring contract compliance. As a young lieutenant, Muluh is responsible for managing a $42 million contract portfolio that supports the entire Team Pete community. Our contracting professionals do more than just support the 21st SW and our 53 mission partners at Peterson AFB. Did you know we have a six-person contracting detachment in the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen, and that their primary mission is to provide contracting support to Thule Air Base, Greenland? So the next time you need to order supplies using your Government Purchase Card or decide to redesign your conference room, make sure to touch base with our contracting team.

Finally, if you’ve been tasked to deploy while at Peterson AFB or CMAFS, you’ve probably met or at least heard of our wing’s installation deployment officer, Mr. Larry Wilkerson. Wilkerson and his team of logistics planners operate Air Force Space Command’s largest installation and deployment readiness cell and coordinate with almost every unit on base to ensure they are correctly reporting and postured to deploy. Once an Airmen or unit is tasked to deploy, Wilkerson and his team expertly coordinate with the unit, U.S. Transportation Command and the combatant commander to physically get personnel and cargo to where the combatant commander needs them. The margin of error is incredibly small, as the combatant commander and the joint staff drive timelines and requirements. Wilkerson and his team of logistics planners ultimately ensure the 21st SW’s deployable units meet these requirements and deliver their deployed capability on time and on target. Their mission truly is a no-fail mission, and they’ve deployed hundreds of Airmen down rage with zero deployment discrepancies, a feat few installations are ever able to achieve.

With almost 2,000 military, civilian and contract Airmen in the 21st MSG, it’s difficult to highlight all we do, but the Team Pete community and the $18 billion command and control complex at CMAFS would not function if it weren’t for these incredible professionals delivering agile combat support each and every day. Although we perform our mission with no expectation of gratitude, I encourage you to make a point to stop and thank a MSG Airmen today.  “MSG…One Team, Rock Solid!”