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Wright-Patterson AFB embracing need for change

Col. Ivan Herwick

Col. Ivan Herwick

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - Change can be hard, but the Air Force has challenged us to not shy away from preparing ourselves for the future. I want to discuss one change coming to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Effective late spring 2022, we will deactivate the 88th Communications Group. This will end a nearly 28-year history for the organization and represents one of the 88th Air Base Wing’s most significant changes in recent history.

I am often asked the same questions about this: What is going to change, why are we doing this and does this mean cyber is less important now?

I want to address those, but it is important to first provide some history as context.

While its lineage dates back to 1951, the 88th Communications Group took on its current name in 1994. At the same time, the 88th Communications Squadron was created to manage most day-to-day operational tasks.

Up through 2019, the role of 88 CG gradually shifted from one of consolidated communications support to an almost-exclusive focus on installation-level and core information technology services. During that time, the organization also saw a corresponding decrease in its workforce size.

In February 2019, the 88th Operations Support Squadron was officially added to the 88 CG family. Later that year, the group led the 88th Mission Operations Group (Provisional) experiment, testing the concept of consolidated command and control of the wing’s operational elements. This included the 88 CS cyber focus, 88 OSS air focus, and land focus of both the 88th Security Forces Squadron and 788th Civil Engineer Squadron.

In the end, the benefits of implementing the experiment did not outweigh the cost. This left two squadrons under an imprecise “Communications Group” moniker, with nothing in the Air Force lexicon being a better fit.

So what is changing? The 88 CS will move to the 88th Mission Support Group — the standard alignment found at most installations. The 88 OSS will shift directly under the wing, which is the same alignment that existed prior to 2019 and the norm across Air Force Materiel Command air base wings.

What will change for Wright-Patterson AFB users and mission partners? Nothing. Since the addition of 88 OSS in 2019, 88 CG has not been exclusively communications-focused. 

Airfield operations and munitions-management functions will remain the responsibility of 88 OSS. Day-to-day operations of communications and cyber capabilities will remain with 88 CS. The roles performed by 88 CG staff will be done by 88 ABW and 88 MSG, respectively.

Why? While still large compared to most installations, our communications functions do not, by themselves, meet the size requirements for a group. The 88 OSS addition moderated this concern in the short term, but retaining an additional group in the wing only delays an inevitable decision.

Does this mean cyber is less important now? Absolutely not, and 88 CS will continue to be a leader in installation-level cyber capabilities.

However, as the Air Force shifts focus from IT service delivery to delivering cyberspace capabilities, the nature of “communications” at the installation level will continue to change. The organization must change with it.

For some, the change will rightfully be a significant event. For many, it may not register at all. For all, it shows that change is welcome at Wright-Patterson AFB.

I look forward to working with everyone to ensure this change is a success.