‘Accelerate change or lose’: Updating Muns nerve center

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Victoria Hommel
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Hollywood introduces U.S. command and control centers as the forefront of technological ability; often shown with seamless monitors that flow throughout the rooms, perfect installation and top tier technology.

Inside the command and control center, it embodies 21st century technology, or at least it should.

“Currently, across the Air Force and specifically in the munitions world, command and control is not primed for 21st century operations,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Juan Garcia, 509th Munitions Squadron systems flight chief. “As it stands munitions control lacks a system that seamlessly integrates software and hardware needed for optimal control operations.”

The 509th Munitions Squadron command and control center, or nerve center, provides centralized monitoring and information management over the entirety of the squadron. They focus on the ability to plan, direct and coordinate munitions and weapons activities within the installation.

With the current set up in their nerve center, munitions Airmen are task saturated, as they are required to use multiple systems to pull data, none of which are tied to each other.                       

“Each of these systems alone do not create a complete picture,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Shaun Pettis, 509th Munitions Squadron command and control section chief. “We then use Microsoft Office products to make these systems work for us, which creates additional time spent on administrative tasks.”

The nerve center currently utilizes redundant, outdated systems that are tracked manually on a magnetic board.

After recognizing the immense need for upgrading, Pettis and Garcia handed their Airmen markers and asked them to write down their frustrations with their daily tasks.

“I arrived here in July of 2020, and I quickly saw the frustrations my Airmen face every day in doing the simple tasks because of the redundancy caused by regulations requiring multi-program use,” said Pettis.

From there, Pettis has pushed innovation with the help of his leadership, mentors and Airmen.

“I have been extremely fortunate to have an amazing leadership team that have all promoted innovation,” said Pettis.

Whiteman Air Force Base facilitates innovation through the Innovation Office that provides feedback and assistance in finding the best option to both fund innovation and develop new ideas. 

“We are inviting 3D Media, a small business innovation research company, to assist us in preparing to meet the needs and demands of nerve center Airmen,” said Garcia.

The small business innovation research program encourages domestic small businesses to engage in federal research.

With the help of the innovation office, the munitions nerve center sent an application out in the SBIR domain to request the help of a small research company.

“We are looking to partner with 3D Media part of Roy Operating Company LLC in order to create a system capable of extracting both structured and unstructured data from multiple sources,” said Garcia. “The proposed project would provide an ability to automatically compile data into a ‘one stop shop’ with a graphical interface in lieu of redundant and outdated systems. The software, interactive board and application would be able to show multiple screens of information and give the controllers the ability to update information through touchscreen hardware.”

Throughout the Air Force, innovation and modernization has been a priority.

While addressing critical needs of his Airmen, Pettis has also aligned his project with the top priority of Air Force Chief of Staff General C.Q. Brown to “accelerate change or lose.”

Gen. Brown states, “Many of the requirements for capabilities that have underpinned our success were developed in the decade today’s most senior leaders joined our Air Force… Our Airmen need us to integrate and accelerate the changes necessary to explore new operational concepts and bring more rapidly the capabilities that will help them in the future fights.”

By focusing on innovation and the needs of their Airmen, Pettis and Garcia will bring the current set-up of the command and control center to embody 21st century technology.