22nd Airlift Squadron boosts squadron vision in off-site initiative with Silicon Valley leaders

  • Published
  • By Nick DeCicco
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Members of the 22nd Airlift Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, California, met July 19-20 with leaders from the Silicon Valley community in an effort to chart the future of the unit.


The off-site initiative took advantage of the squadron’s geographic proximity to the technology industry, meeting with multiple entrepreneurs. The squadron also became the first Department of Defense unit to visit the Apple Park corporate headquarters of Apple Inc. in Cupertino, California, which opened in 2017.


“If you want to be the best, you’ve got to keep improving,” said Lt. Col. Paul Pawluk, 22nd AS commander. “Overall, it was a really positive experience. The goal was to open the aperture for our leadership team, to get away from desk work and think about bigger things.”


The two-day event split into three parts.


The first consisted of a four-hour strategic communication session in which 18 members of senior leadership from the 22nd AS focused on the mission, vision and priorities of the unit.


Later that day, the 22nd AS members visited San Francisco, California, home of Raj Shah, the former head of the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit Experimental as well as an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot with the Air National Guard, to meet with technology industry leaders and entrepreneurs.


Other guests included Ori Brafman, a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-author of “Radical Inclusion: What the Post-9/11 World Should Have Taught Us About Leadership” with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey; John Fenwick, who led spacecraft operations for Google Inc. and now works for Apple; as well as developers behind the JIGSAW app used to streamline tanker operations downrange.


The visit to the Apple Park campus was the final piece of the initiative.


The motive for the off-site excursion was to modernize the squadron, incorporating the advancements of technology to fit the needs of an evolving 22nd AS and Air Force.


Capt. Kris Fernandez, 22nd AS director of staff, said leadership, talent management, communication and the decision-making process were priorities identified during the meeting of squadron leaders. The aim also was to align with goals of the base, 18th Air Force and Air Mobility Command as well as the U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Gen. David L. Goldfein “Communications Squadron Next” concept, an initiative to integrate cyberspace innovations at the unit level.


Pawluk returned to Travis focused on communication, such as using a cloud-based collaboration and messaging service rather than emails to interact with members of the squadron.


“Our communication is archaic,” he said. “We send tons of emails. … A lot of introspective reflection was to say, ‘If this is our ops environment, what do we need to do to stay ahead of that?’”


At Shah’s home, one speaker talked about “disruptive thinking,” including working with new people to solve problems, an issue Fernandez said occurs both internally for the squadron as well as externally when thinking about foreign policy.


Fernandez said one entrepreneur emphasized the concept of ownership, seeking out problems and solving them. He said one issue in the Air Force is people failing to embrace issues and working to solve them.


The visit to Apple focused on culture, inclusion, diversity, innovation and, Fernandez said, breaking “out of the military-only mindset when it comes to managing talent.” He said the squadron hopes to work with the tech company in the future to design apps to further enhance mission efficiency.


The off-site event may serve as a tool for other squadrons across the Air Force, however, Pawluk and Fernandez said Travis’ geographic proximity to Silicon Valley helped facilitate an opportunity that other installations may not be able to recreate.


“Geography matters,” said Pawluk. “As soon as we got back, the base was asking us how we pulled this off. Taking time away from work to reflect, that’s something I think is a lost art.”


Pawluk and Fernandez said plans for the future include renovating the 22nd AS facility to incorporate both the lessons and advancements of technology.


“We’re making sure we turn the building and unit into a place people want to go to work rather than regular, old, drab government building,” said Fernandez. “We want to turn into AMC’s model squadron for how they’re structured and how they develop people.”

**Does not imply Air Force or Department of Defense endorsement**