Maintainers and crew chiefs prepare B-2 bombers for their next sorties. The return of support staffs to squadrons will allow commanders and others to focus on their missions, Air Force officials say. (Senior Airman Kenny Holston / Air Force)
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Squadron commanders can expect more help with their administrative and personnel duties starting this month with the return of support staffs, a move that also eases the workload of airmen tasked with those duties until now.
Air Force officials announced that as of Oct. 1 the service would return to providing staff support for squadron commanders so they could focus more on their missions.
Lt. Gen. Darrell Jones, Air Force manpower, personnel and services deputy chief of staff, said during his presentation at the Air Force Association Air and Space conference in September, that since 2005 the number of squadrons has increased by 11 percent, but the service has cut personnelists and knowledge operations support by 52 percent. The service has approximately 2,000 active-duty squadrons.
"This is a simple math problem," he said. "We cut everybody out there."
Squadron commanders said in a survey that the lack of support staff was hindering their ability to accomplish their mission, especially when fliers and maintainers had to be pulled from their main duties to handle personnel work, Jones said.
"[That] survey went to 4,000 people at 40 different bases and the outcome of it — the key takeaway is that we moved the knowledge operation from the squadron level to the group level," he said. "Eighty-two percent of all the group commanders who took the survey said that we needed to put the knowledge operators back at the squadron level. The thing that made it amazing is that was not one of the questions on the survey.
"If 82 percent of squadron commanders are all telling you that and it's not one of the questions, you better listen," Jones said.
Air Force senior leaders did listen and decided to reinstate the support staff during a Corona South conference in February, according to an Oct. 9 news release. Jones' office has functional oversight of the commander support staff organization, which includes developing the guidance.
Maj. Joel Harper, a spokesman for the Air Force, said a fully staffed commander support staff could have as few as one additional staff member for the smallest of squadrons or as many as 11 for the largest.
"The mix within the CSS will depend on local needs, but could include training managers, personnelists, knowledge operations, squadron section commanders and unit deployment managers," Harper said in an email.
Harper said this staff will help squadron commanders with tasks such as deployment preparation, training, coordinating performance evaluations, decorations, promotions, commander's calls, unit accountability and other personnel and administrative duties.
"Every unit has unique needs and ultimately local commanders will decide how to use their CSS personnel to meet the requirements and priorities of their units," he said.
To get the new CSSs up and running, group-level knowledge operators will provide initial support and be distributed to squadrons based on local requirements and priorities. More billets, which will be filled by personnelists, are slated to be added to the support staffs in fiscal 2014.
Senior leaders also might make some adjustments to the career fields that staff these billets to standardize Air Force Specialty Codes and grades within each support staff. More manpower could be added in future funding cycles.
Commander support staffs "are the building blocks of strong squadrons," Jones said. "By rebuilding our CSS, we are helping commanders focus on their top priorities: the mission and the outstanding airmen who accomplish our mission every day.
"This initiative to rebuild unit CSSs will greatly enhance mission effectiveness," he said.