Commentary by Capt. Dan Schempp
50th Operations Support Squadron executive officer
The technical nature of the missions taking place here requires the support of a tremendous cadre of professionals who keep our day-to-day operations running smoothly. These individuals form a team that doesn’t always garner center stage attention, but is no less essential to the operational mission than the operator on console or the intelligence official briefing the wing commander. However, they perform behind the scenes and most of the active duty Airmen here have unfortunately passed them without notice before. They’re the corps of professional and government employed civilians and contractors working at Schriever.
With varied backgrounds from many assorted companies, these experts provide mission support in a variety of roles across the full spectrum of Air Force missions, from civil engineering to software programming and database management to fixing fatal satellite anomalies which degrade our essential services to the warfighter. Contractors help guard our gates, keep us safe and free security forces personnel to execute their wartime missions with flexibility. Every space operations squadron owes the success of their individual operational mission to a handful of true experts who have known and worked with their weapons systems for decades. Many of these individuals are so indispensable to the mission that they are under restrictions preventing them from all traveling together in case an emergency occurs.
And yet, we in the active duty Air Force often pass them without greetings or treat them with less respect than active duty professionals such as an officer or NCO. Please be aware of the mission essential nature undertaken by many of these professionals. Often because of the depth and breadth of their experience, they are given the highest level of trust and credibility by commanders.
Additionally, the vast majority of civilians and contractors employed here have been at Schriever long before the current generation of officers and enlisted arrived, and will most likely remain here long after we have all departed. Many civilians and contractors here are former squadron commanders or high ranking NCOs with many years of leadership experience that has provided them with a wealth of knowledge. Most of the Airmen here know or have worked closely with someone who has retired from active duty and continues to serve in a contractor or Department of Defense civilian role on base.
As active duty officers and enlisted in the United States Air Force, we aspire to live by our core values, one of which is “Service before Self.” We also take an oath to support and defend the Constitution. These make us accountable to the civilian populace, to the people of our nation. Ultimately it is the will of those people that will determine our actions as a nation and military force in peace and wartime.
Therefore, it is the civilian population and by extension, these civilian and contractor employees, to whom we are ultimately responsible.
Please keep this in mind as we go about our varied roles in the operational Air Force, and ensure you treat these individuals with the respect and attention they deserve as professionals. Their fingerprint is unmistakable on every aspect of our operations.