By Tech. Sgt. John Orrell and Master Sgt. Ken Stephens, 126th Public Affairs Office
/ Published November 12, 2013
Scott Air Force Base, Ill. -- The following story is part three of a feature article series spotlighting each of the Groups within the 126th Air Refueling Wing. Last Wing Tips edition, we spotlighted the Maintenance Group. This edition, we present the Group in charge of the behind the scenes action to keep the Wing going - the 126th Mission Support Group.
Mission Support Group
As the Wing's mission statement goes, "The primary mission of the 126th Air Refueling Wing is to provide air refueling support to major commands of the Air Force as well as other U.S. military forces and the military forces of allied nations." It is in this mission statement that the 126th Mission Support Group (126 MSG) plays some of the most important roles in the Wing to achieve success.
The saying goes - behind every successful Airman is a team of supporters striving every day to make them successful. Whether it's through civil engineering, communications, force support, logistic readiness, contracting or security forces, these teammates work diligently to provide every member of the 126th Air Refueling Wing (126 ARW) with the resources and support needed to achieve the mission on a day-to-day basis.
Col. Rick Nyalka, the 126 MSG Commander is a firm believer of that saying.
"You will find out that the Mission Support Group - regardless of what the issue is, or the activity - somehow impacts every decision that's made, or is impacted by every decision that's made," he says. "Almost nothing can happen without one activity, or at least one activity, within the Mission Support Group being involved in it."
"We can't fly planes without fuel, you can't fix planes without aircraft parts; people need to have a clear head to do their jobs over there. If personnel can't keep their personnel records straight, people have a tendency to not concentrate on their job," says Col. Nyalka.
Within the Mission Support Group there are several squadrons, flights and offices that work together to achieve the overall success of the Wing, here are some highlights from those units.
According to the 126th Civil Engineering Squadron's (CES) fact sheet, they are responsible for mechanical and electrical activities including: installation, operation, maintenance, and repair of direct support systems and equipment. They also provide construction and maintenance of facilities and pavement areas.
To ensure the 126th's facilities are fully-functional and ready for their Airmen, the CES provides support for utilities systems such as plumbing, water, and wastewater systems, fuel system maintenance, and pest management.
"We all need facilities to work out of so we have Civil Engineering that's there, and it's their duty to ensure that our facilities are up and operational so that all the units can perform their jobs,' says Col. Nyalka.
To better prepare all members of the 126th for war-fighting and disaster response, the CES provides readiness training so personnel can accomplish their primary mission under the handicaps imposed by enemy attack, natural or man-made disasters. They establish, train and equip a disaster response force to handle all types of peacetime accidents and requests for assistance from the civilian community.
The primary task of the 126th Communications Flight is to provide command, control, communications and computer support to the Wing. These communication specialists provide mail, network, radio, and telephone services in a variety of either secure-for-classified or non-secure modes.
Reliable communications are so vital that the mission would suffer without them, said Senior Airman Talia Reed, a Client Systems Technician for the Communications Focal Point team.
"Without computers, phones or radios we wouldn't be able to communicate locally or abroad as quickly or efficiently as we do," she says. "The term 'communication is key' is very applicable not just to the 126th Air Refueling Wing but the military as a whole. Without communication, effective and efficient communication at that, we don't move anything."
As with all functions of the Mission Support Group, she is focused on providing the best customer support possible. "Out of 652 tickets, 439 were closed by the Communications Focal Point," says Senior Airman Reed.
While not a squadron within the MSG, the contracting officer supports the Wing in a vital way.
"Our mission as base contracting is to fulfill any need," says Master Sgt. Tammy Knowles, the Base Contracting Officer for the 126 ARW. According to her, the office has worked on contracts to purchase items ranging from paperclips and pens to construction projects and aircraft parts.
The Contracting Office has high standards to ensure business is kept fair and honest. "Obviously we have certain regulatory and statutory requirements that we have to fulfill," she says. "I am the one to hold all of the, quote, knowledge, unquote, of all the regulatory and statutory requirements that we have to fulfill in order to keep in line with those."
Force Support Squadron
The 126th Force Support Squadron (FSS) is the focal point for translating policies and programs into individual actions affecting people. This covers five areas: personnel, education, recruiting, retention and services.
Their mission is to accomplish a wide-range of personnel services for 126th Airmen, their family members, and retirees. They also provide quality personnel and services support to commanders, active duty Air Force members and families.
During deployment operations and natural disasters, the Services section ensures hot meals or a combination of hot meals and operational rations are available to feed the troops. They also provide lodging and recreation programs.
Master Sgt. Melanie Voyles, the full-time Base Services Specialist for the Wing, says that the FSS is about readiness.
"Our most visible functional area right now is probably Fitness because they're conducting fitness assessments every UTA for all our Wing members," says Master Sgt. Voyles, adding that recreation and fitness programs also help build morale for the 126th personnel.
Logistics Readiness Squadron
Charged with supplying and equipping the Airmen of the 126th for their missions, the 126th Logistics Readiness Squadron (LRS) is the largest unit within the Mission Support Group.
This includes operating supply distribution systems, managing storage warehouses, and accounting for equipment and property.
After Airmen are provided with the necessary supplies, the logistics planners must then assist in moving those resources.
The ability to move personnel and equipment of the 126th requires a fleet of vehicles. This is all handled by the Vehicle Management (VM) office. They are responsible for cradle to grave management of vehicles assigned to the Wing including inspecting, repairing, and maintaining vehicles and vehicular equipment.
If you take time to look around you will see a vast array of vehicle types, and each type has its own maintenance requirements. Ensuring VM meets these standards requires a variety of Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSC). A total of seven different AFSCs enable the team to manage and maintain such a diverse fleet.
One individual that makes up part of this team is Tech. Sgt. Mark Decker. He possesses the 2T370, Vehicle Maintenance Craftsman, AFSC. This skill set performs supervisory oversight and technical specialist maintenance on any type of vehicle that is pulled into the shop. Decker has been in the Air Force since 1987 and has been with the 126 ARW nine years, and says he loves contributing to the Air Guard mission and has been on numerous deployments including Desert Storm and Iraq four different times.
"We keep the mission - fly, fight and win - rolling. Putting it realistically, like a missing cog on a gear, if vehicle management was not accomplishing their job, the Air Force machine would come to a halt and planes would not be able to launch and support their mission," says Tech. Sgt. Decker.
Security Forces Squadron
The 126th Security Forces Squadron (SFS) performs force protection duties. They are multi-tasked for homeland, state and federal defense as well as perimeter security, patrols and resource protection.
Security Forces personnel will be deployed and employed in sensitive or hostile environments. They perform the military police function within the Air Guard.
"We safeguard and secure the resources, the facilities and the personnel who ultimately enable the mission," says Master Sgt. Henry Kendrick, the SFS Operation Superintendent. "We provide a safe environment for personnel to work in their facilities, who support the mission both directly and indirectly."
At the end of the day, when all is said and done, it takes every member of all of these units working together to provide you - the Airmen of the 126th - the needed support to successfully complete the mission, and Col. Nyalka feels the 126 MSG is succeeding at that every day.
"I believe, if you ask folks around the base, they get very good support from us because we go above and beyond whenever we can. And we always remember that our middle name is support and that's where we believe we need to concentrate our efforts and I think we do a very good job of that."