Space Command Inspector General: 24th Air Force ready for full operations

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The Headquarters Air Force Space Command Inspector General team concluded a four-day Full Operational Capability assessment of 24th Air Force units here today with a briefing to the commander stating that the numbered Air Force and its subordinate units are "ready" to be declared fully operationally capable.

"Considering the fact that 24th Air Force was created to stop bad people from trying to harm Americans and our way of life," said Col. Scott Gilson, the AFSPC IG, "it is extremely appropriate that we have completed this assessment and have determined 24th Air Force and the 624th Operations Center ready to assume full operational capability on the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001."

The goal of the assessment was to evaluate the unit's ability to conduct U.S. Air Force network operations, to command and control the USAF network, and its ability to ensure mission assurance for the Air Force mission.

"In its just over 13 months of existence, the men and women of 24th Air Force have worked hard to operationalize and normalize cyber operations throughout the Air Force," said Maj. Gen. Richard Webber, 24th Air Force commander. "Mission assurance is the number one goal in current cyber operations, versus the old paradigm of information assurance. Our people have really moved the service forward finding ways to work through the contested environment and will continue to use their creativity and skill to keep us at the cutting edge of operations in cyberspace."

The inspection team returned to Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., following the inspection to report their findings back to AFSPC leadership, including the commander, Gen. C. Robert Kehler, who is expected to make the final decision and announcement on 24th Air Force's full operational capability in the next few weeks.

"Being declared fully-operational capable will be a great milestone to achieve, and our people have done a great job ensuring we are ready," said Col. William Burton, 24th Air Force chief of staff. "That said, FOC declaration does not mean our job will get any easier - our mission will continue to both grow and challenge us, as the technology drives our need for innovation."

Major Command inspections and exercises are common for operational units across the Air Force and, like other operational units, the 24th Air Force is required to conduct assigned missions while coping with additional inspection scenarios. The inspection team evaluated the unit's ability to respond to a variety of threats that could impact the Air Force portion of the DoD networks using both crisis action and deliberate planning processes.

"This inspection was similar to the one we conducted just before Christmas to determine if the 24th Air Force was at the initial operating capability level," said Colonel Gilson. "During this inspection, the observation we made while 24th Air Force personnel reacted simultaneously to the exercise scenarios and to real-world events, made us realize this is a much more robust operation than those outside of the organization have perceived."

The assessment was observed by representatives from the joint community including the U.S. Cyber Command IG, leadership from Marine Forces Cyber Command, Army Forces Cyber Command, 3rd Air Force and 12th Air Force.

"24th Air Force hit this one out of the park," said Col. Jim Becker, the MARFORCYBER director of operations. "This was an exceptionally challenging test their cyber operational capability and I am impressed by the expertise and professionalism of the 24th Air Force team in the areas of the evaluation. I look forward to adopting a number of best practices in MARFORCYBER as we mature our organization."

At the end of the inspection assessment, General Webber presented commander's coins to both the IG team "Professional Performers," and those identified by the 24th Air Force staff. The IG team recognized performers were Capt. Karin Reynolds, A2 (Intelligence) Directorate, Capt. Yolonda Smith, Air Component Coordination Element, Capt. James Kelley, Strategy Division, 624th OC, Capt. John Picklesimer, 624th OC, 2nd Lt. Sol Sonya, 624th OC, Tech. Sgt. Jason Colian, 624th OC. The additional 24th Air Force top performers were Capt. Jeremy Loyd, A2, Capt. Bryan Black, A3T (Training), Tech. Sgt. Shawn Hamilton, A3O (Current Operations), Capt. Michael Holtz A6 (Communications), Tech. Sgt. Michael Kienholz, A6, and Tech. Sgt. Brian Mayhew, Staff Judge Advocate's office. The additional 624th OC top performers were Capt. Michael Forostoski, Capt. Mark Bishop, and Tech. Sgt. Jason Nawrot. The identified ACCE top performer was Capt. Shawntes Brooks.

"It is exciting and humbling to be part of this new evolution in Air Force operations," said General Webber. "The people we have on staff and running our day-to-day missions right down to our newest mission-capable operators working on the floor of our operations centers are some of the most intelligent, skilled, adaptive Airmen that the Air Force has seen in its 63 years of existence. I look forward to our success as we continue to strengthen and grow our new capabilities."