Senior Department of the Air Force leaders visit KAFB; Commend Airmen for adaptability during COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Austin J. Prisbrey
  • Kirtland Public Affairs

Performing the Duties of Under Secretary of the Air Force Shon Manasco, along with Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Stephen “Seve” Wilson, and Space Force Vice Commander Lt. Gen. David Thompson, visited Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, May 4, 2020, to observe ongoing efforts during COVID-19 and how operations have adapted to maintain critical mission readiness.

“It was an honor to host Mr. Manasco, General Wilson and General Thompson and to showcase the strength and resolve in Team Kirtland,” said Col. David S. Miller, 377th Air Base Wing commander. “There is no doubt our nation is better prepared to handle the challenges of the future as a result of the ingenuity and innovation exhibited by the Airmen and civilians on Kirtland Air Force Base.”

Throughout the morning visit, senior leaders met with Airmen, commanders, and civilians to gain first-hand knowledge about the impacts, opportunities and innovations to preserve national security mission capabilities.

Wilson visited with Airmen from various units belonging to the 377th Air Base Wing and praised them for their resiliency and ongoing efforts to protect and secure the nation’s security assets during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A part of this visit was to come out here and tell you thank you,” said Wilson. “I don’t think any one of us would have thought a year ago that we would sitting here, all masked up. And yet in spite of all that, the mission continued. Despite what happened with COVID, you didn’t stop. You found ways to do it differently and better and it is really impressive.”

Mr. Manasco and Thompson began morning discussions at the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center. The center oversees integration efforts for the Nuclear Command, Control and Communications Weapon System, as well as efforts related to nuclear surety, certification and mission assurance.  

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Shaun Morris, AFNWC commander, said that the visit was a good opportunity to showcase adjustments the center has made during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This was a great opportunity to update our visitors on how we are adapting to COVID-19 in key nuclear modernization programs, such as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent and the Long Range Standoff Weapon," said Morris. "Up to this point, we have not seen any delays in our nuclear recapitalization efforts and are instead seeking opportunities to accelerate our schedules, where prudent."

In addition to developing new capabilities, the center’s workforce helps sustain the current Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and the Air Launched Cruise Missile systems. 

“We face challenges every day as part of our normal processes and the COVID-19 pandemic has made us more flexible than ever," Morris said. “We are paring down non-essential tasks as much as possible, but we continue to focus on delivering effective and reliable nuclear capabilities to the warfighter.”  

Following the visit to the AFNWC, Mr. Manasco and Thompson then visited the Space Rapid Capabilities Office and were provided an update by Michael Roberts, SpRCO director, on current programs and an overview of the successful approaches taken for protecting the staff against COVID-19.

Given the constraints requiring physical access to SpRCO facilities, Roberts said the office initiated a flexible shift schedule for four facilities with established sanitation protocols, social distancing and cloth face mask policies exercised between shifts to minimize contact.

“The Space Rapid Capabilities Office implemented an approach focused on keeping our people healthy, while allowing our critical mission to continue as much as absolutely possible under difficult circumstances,” said Roberts. “We were also able to find an impactful way to support our local community in the COVID-19 fight. This drive and innovative thinking is why I am proud to lead this top notch team.”

Roberts explained that co-workers and spouses sewed masks for use in the office and SpRCO also worked with their affiliate COSMIAC, a research center under the UNM School of Engineering, on their proposal to prototype rapid 3-D printing capability through production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). To date, nearly 2,000 PPE masks have been delivered to local hospitals, fire departments and the hardest hit area—the Navajo Nation. This collaboration demonstrated COSMIAC’s effectiveness in meeting rapid manufacturing requirements within an accelerated and responsive timeline.

Throughout the visits, all participants wore masks and practiced social distancing as part of overall safety protocols. Manasco emphasized the priority of health and safety of the entire Air Force community at each stop.