Program Office hosts VCSAF

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – The Air Force Battlefield Airmen Program Office headquartered here recently hosted Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen W. Wilson for a tour and update on important programs and initiatives the office is leading. Wilson was on base as part of a two-day trip in which he also visited the Air Force Research Laboratory and served as the keynote speaker for the Air Force Operations Research Symposium.

Battlefield Airmen are a specially trained, elite ground component of the Air Force who are responsible for connecting air power with situations on the ground. They are tasked with what are often high risk missions and play a crucial role in the Department of Defense’s warfighting capabilities. They are comprised of Combat Controllers, Pararescuemen, Special Operations weathermen and Tactical Air Control Party Airmen.

During his tour of the BA Program Office, Wilson spoke with acquisition professionals and subject matter experts about the work the organization is doing to provide Battlefield Airmen with the tools and equipment they need to be more effective in the field. He also participated in hands-on demonstrations in which he got to use equipment that the program office is acquiring for operators and test drove a vehicle that is a candidate to satisfy ground mobility requirements for Personnel Recovery operators. 

Col. Karl Schloer, BA Program Office Senior Materiel Leader, said that his office is unique because it is responsible for enhancing the performance of human-based weapons systems – Special Tacticians, Guardian Angels and Tactical Air Control Parties – with items such as radios, tailored software and mission-specific gear like technical recovery equipment and laser range finders.

During the tour, the office highlighted recent successes including saving more than $17 million and 11,000 man-hours by combining requirements across multiple Air Force operator communities. These savings have allowed the team both here and at Hanscom Air Force Base to work on other requirements and freed up money to buy additional items for operators. In addition, over the past two years, the office has delivered more than 53,000 items ranging from night vision goggles, personal protective equipment and parachutes to radios, wearable computers and maritime multi-fuel engines, Schloer said.

“We’ve had great success transitioning technologies from [AFRL’s] Battlefield Air Targeting Man-Aided k(N)owledge (BATMAN) team and other technology programs into our production programs,” Schloer said. “Examples include unattended sensors for remote weather monitoring, improved tactical headset systems, and smaller, lighter and brighter signal lights for Special Tacticians to use in operating austere airfields.”

Schloer said that the vice chief’s visit spotlighted the importance of the work being done in the program office.

“It was a real privilege to have the vice chief come in and spend time here,” Schloer said. “It was a great opportunity for us to show the work we do and especially nice for the folks in these programs to see senior Air Force leadership putting this much emphasis on making sure Battlefield Airmen are equipped to perform their mission. We all regard it as a big deal to be able to support the BA career fields because they perform a lot of the Air Force’s most difficult missions. Everyone talks about warfighters being the tip of the spear; these guys are right out at the very pointiest part and supporting them is both a challenge and a very rewarding activity.”