ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --
In a confined area sparsely decorated, computers with phones attached that look like they’re straight from the 1983 Classic “War Games” are manned by waiting Airmen.
Suddenly a phone rings and the room bursts to life, the Airmen begin converge on each station, some emailing commanders and some answering phone calls. All these actions take place at the same time. Communication within this team is key to ensuring that whatever situation taking place is properly handled. This is the command post, and this is a daily occurrence.
The team works 24/7, 365 days a year executing quick reaction checklists to preserve lives, minimize damage and restore operations following any situation, in addition to conducting flight coordination between Ellsworth and transiting aircrafts within the Air Force’s largest aircraft training complex in the United States, all while ensuring combat air power is readily available at a moment’s notice.
The Ellsworth command post recently won the Air Force Global Strike Command 2016 Medium Command Post of the Year award, and has continued to improve their operations to make the command post team as efficient as possible.
“When we received the award everyone was in shock,” said Master Sgt. Shawnte Zolicoffer, the superintendent for the 28th Bomb Wing Command Post. “I immediately became overcome with intense joy and pride. Despite all we had going on, to include manning shortfalls, we were able to dig deep and put the distractions aside to accomplish the mission to the best of our ability.”
The command post’s mission is to deliver time critical-information to base leaders regarding operations to protect Ellsworth assets and base personnel in order to effectively maintain the wing’s mission to provide combat airpower – anytime, anywhere.
“We are a 24/7 operating facility,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph W. Wauson, a Senior Emergency Action Controller assigned to the command post. “Whenever there’s something happening on base, at the [major command level], or at the Headquarters Air Force level, we are the first to know and the first to notify the commander and wing leadership.”
This recognition and award is more than just a piece of paper and a way to compete for Air Force awards. To the team, it is recognizing a unit that is critical to the Ellsworth mission.
“When Airmen complete what they consider the run-of-the-mill tasks day-in and day-out, it’s hard for them to see the big picture and makes it difficult to see how they contribute to the wing and MAJCOM mission,” Zolicoffer said. “This [award] validates all the hard work the team has committed themselves to. Being recognized by Air Force Global Strike Command is huge for us. It shows how much the team truly contributes to the Air Force mission overall.”
Part of the reason for winning the award was their continuous need to strive for excellence. The team recently went through a Unit Evaluation Inspection that tested their mission capabilities and effectiveness.
“When the UEI happened, [the inspector] identified some past issues that were out of our control as well as current problem [areas],” Wauson said. “The training for command post rapidly changed. We implemented new operating procedures that ensured our team was as good as they could be.”
Zolicoffer explained that receiving this award won’t change anything for the command post. They will continue to strive for excellence in all they do.
“Even if we don’t win the award again, it will be fine,” Zolicoffer said. “Not everyone is going to continually recognize the hard work these Airmen accomplish. My priority is to ensure my team is prepared to operate and excel in any command post environment; deployed, or at the home station. Being able to support the mission and do it well is what really matters. The award expresses more about the character of a team, not of a single person or action.”
The command post team resembles something of a well-oiled machine.
“Throughout the year and a half that I have been here, my main focus was to ensure the machine had all the parts it needs to run,” Zolicoffer said. “Some parts were broken, many were missing. We have come have come a long way in finally producing a product we can be proud of. Now, all we have to do is maintain it for the team to continue to produce quality Airmen.
The command post is often referred to as the “eyes and ears” of the base. They won’t stop being that just because they received an award. The work continues to make sure Team Ellsworth is informed and prepared to provide combat airpower- anytime, anywhere.