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Reservists demonstrate value to Mission Sustainment Team

  • Published
  • By Michelle Gigante
  • 919th Special Operations Wing

The 919th Special Operations Mission Support Group is finding new and innovative ways to offer customized solutions when providing deployable sustainment capabilities to Air Force Special Operations Command. 

The unit illustrated its ability to provide multifunctional Airmen to AFSOC when it sent a six-person team to support a Mission Sustainment Team during a certification exercise in southwest Texas that concluded June 16, 2023. 

“We are trying to find the best ways to structure MSTs for the 919th Special Operations Wing,” said Tech. Sgt. Michael O’Callaghan, 919th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron resource and training manager. “Instead of this being a ‘one size fits all’ package, we are providing more of an ala-carte menu for the mission commander.”

The Airmen who supported the MST represented each of the five squadrons within the 919th Special Operations Mission Support Group: civil engineering, force support, logistics readiness, security forces, and communications. Each of the squadrons select representatives from their respective areas of expertise to supplement and enhance the capabilities for an STS.

The MST provided critical capabilities for the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, part of the 24th Special Operations Wing and a geographically separated unit based at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, often performing tasks to enhance mission effectiveness in a remote and austere location mirroring a deployed environment.

“Our focus is to maximize efforts with a minimal amount of people,” said O’Callaghan. “It is more effective and leaves a smaller footprint.”

The MST works on a smaller scale by bringing the exact capabilities to the fight without requiring unnecessary logistical support for the STS mission. Specific needs of an STS may range from electrical to communication support, which the MST provides in a manner tailored to the mission. Reservists are ideally suited for this because in addition to the military training they often enhance MST capabilities by bringing a perspective from their civilian profession to the team.

“The mix of Air Force speciality codes and civilian experience everyone brought led us to having a truly multifaceted team,” said Tech. Sgt. Roy Lizardo, 919th Special Operations Communications Squadron cyber defense craftsman. “It made providing input and solutions to a problem quick and easy. We were the ideal unit to meet the mission requirements for the 26th STS.”

For instance, the team was able to combine their expertise and knowledge to build a makeshift antenna from limited scrap material and supplies. The back-up communications tactical network system provided the means for a high frequency system to reach Cannon AFB hundreds of miles away.

“We improvised by using pvc pipe from the tents we had and were able to make a tripod that was nearly 10 feet tall,” said O’Callaghan.  “We then used a cord to tie off a high frequency wire to the very top to create the antenna.”

Furthermore, the team fulfilled a wide range of needs for the STS to establish a contingency site such as setting up a generator, providing necessary plumbing and water and even preparing appropriate meals for field conditions.

“I was excited to be there and to get a chance to see what goes on with this type of STS training,” said Senior Airman Christopher Maldonado, 919th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron operations manager. “It was my first opportunity to participate in a mission like this and I wanted to fill in wherever they needed me.”

Reservists also assisted the MST by streamlining tasks and aligning their support with functions that complemented the primary mission of the STS.

“We were able to balance each other out,” said O’Callaghan. “While the STS were taking care of their particular missions, we were taking care of them, keeping their contingency location running, at the same time the STS were keeping us safe.”

Citizen Air Commandos form the 919 SOMSG are eager to demonstrate the ability to provide agile and flexible mission support to AFSOC units who need this capability, according to Lizardo.

“We had less than a week to prepare for our departure and despite the short time, my team crushed this task with the best attitude,” said Lizardo. “I am proud of our team and look forward to building on this experience.”