88 FSS strengthens Wright-Patterson’s warfighter mission, people

  • Published
  • By Sarah Amato
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – The 88th Force Support Squadron, the largest in the continental United States, continues to shape its various missions and initiatives, “dominating the dirty work” to reach all Airmen, staff and their families.

Through its effort to enable worldwide missions through supporting, developing and caring for people, 88 FSS works to provide Airmen and their families with events and programs that provide a sense of community, encourage unity, strengthen relationships, and aid in overall recruitment and retention of military and civilian personnel.

“88 FSS is responsible for quite a few things, and because it is a multifaceted organization, it touches quite a few people in a bunch of different ways,” said Audric Bills, 88 FSS director. “From providing Honor Guard support and financial-preparedness lessons to ensuring our dining halls and child development centers are fully staffed, we are here to provide exceptional care and support to our Airmen, staff and their families.”

With a staff of 875 civilians, contractors and military, 88 FSS has eight flights, including Force Development; Manpower; Military and Family Readiness; Military Personnel; Sustainment Services; Child and Youth Services; Resource Management; and Community Services. It also provides partial oversight for civilian personnel.

FSS also manages the installation’s Honor Guard, Mortuary Affairs and marketing initiatives.

Each flight works to support the squadron’s three priorities of improving facilities and equipment; developing and growing its people; and developing and growing its programs and businesses.

The squadron manages more than 45 programs and 110 facilities, supporting about 30,000 government employees and 50,000 retirees. It generates $27 million in non-appropriated fund sales each year with an annual appropriated fund budget of $5.7 million.

“No matter what we do, our endgame is always focused on our community, customers and partners,” Bills said. “Whether it is bringing tours to base, partnering with local schools, operating our fitness centers and restaurants, or issuing military or retiree identification cards, our full range of services reaches every single person on this installation.”

Developing the workforce

Overseeing a seven-state region, the Force Development Flight has a direct role in ensuring that every service member in its operational area has the tools and resources for continued growth throughout their careers.

The flight, which manages Wright-Patterson Air Force Base's Airman Leadership School, educational and training programs, and professional development initiatives, works to develop the installation's workforce for current and future assignments through effective and efficient management of education, training and development services.

"We are responsible for the development of every single military and civilian staff member on this installation," said Brian Butler, Force Development chief. “Our role is to educate, train and develop the force.”

With a staff of 35 civilian and five military members, the flight continues to refine its training, educational and professional-development opportunities to meet the needs of a changing Air Force and mission.

Airman Leadership School trains approximately 200 future NCOs through its offering of seven classes each year. The five-week course is required for staff sergeant selects and open to eligible civilians as Airmen learn more about leadership and Air Force culture.

Force Development also prepares Airmen for promotional testing and career development.

Through continued support of civilians, it offers a variety of courses targeted toward professional development, including Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint training.

“We offer programs that will help every person on this base be successful in their day-to-day jobs,” Butler said. “We want to help everyone as they are progressing through the ranks, looking to get paid more and become competitive for higher-paying jobs. We have programs that will help them…whether it is through mentorship or just learning different skills to make them more competitive as they work themselves up the ladder.”

Securing the future workforce

When it comes to ensuring Wright-Patterson has enough staff to support its mission, Manpower plays an integral role to identify manning shortages and gaps that could ultimately deter from unit goals and objectives.

The flight, which includes 13 civilian and military staff members, works closely with commanders throughout the installation in the management of manpower resources.

“We get down in the weeds when it comes to determining manning gaps and workload factors,” said Laurie McCoy, lead manpower analyst. “Our mission is to work with the base leadership and help them understand their manpower resources. We are here to support them timely and accurately with their manning needs. ”

McCoy said the flight strives to help leadership identify potential manning shortages, which could impact mission capabilities.

“We are here to help leadership best manage the positions they have and help them make strategic manning decisions for the future,” she said.

Sorting out the red tape

For the Military Personnel Flight, understanding and shuffling paperwork has become second nature.

The flight, which handles all facets of military personnel actions on Wright-Patterson, works closely with commanders to safeguard important documents for Airmen, among its other responsibilities.

The flight provides a variety of services to active-duty and retired military, reservists, civilian employees and families. It manages customer support (ID cards), career development, force management, retention and passports. 

“We want to make sure all Airmen here are taken care of in a timely way,” said Capt. Danny Gallo IV, Military Personnel Flight commander. “Whether it is dealing with disciplinary actions, reviewing military evaluations or handling passport requests, we are here to ensure that the process runs smoothly while working to provide exceptional customer service.”

Supported by 46 military, civilian and contractor staff members, the flight’s mission statement is “strength through support of mission, people and families.”

From reenlistments to service extensions, Gallo said Military Personnel often works in the background, ensuring these important career accomplishments take place.

“We are here to make sure that all the paperwork is done correctly, things are accomplished legally and everything is completed in a timely manner,” he said.

Providing exceptional family support

From changing diapers to fingerpainting, the Child and Youth Services Flight “dominates the dirty work” each day as a leading example of how similar programs throughout the Air Force should operate.

The flight oversees family child care and youth programs, along with child development, training curriculum and school-liaison services. With nearly 100 civilian staff members, it provides various services for families, from newborns to high school age..

“Our flight supports families with child care, recreational needs and educational resources for children as young as 2 weeks of age,” said Dr. Donna Blackburn, Child and Youth Services Flight chief. “We are here to provide a safe, secure, quality place for children when their parents are at work throughout Wright-Patterson.”

Among its many services, the flight operates the New Horizons, Wright Care, Wright Field North and Wright Field South child development centers, along with the Prairies School-Age Program and Prairies Youth Center.

Like its counterpart programs throughout the Air Force, the flight also continues to face child-development staffing challenges since COVID-19 restrictions began in 2020.

Once children begin school, the flight also provides school liaison services supporting families with various educational needs throughout the Miami Valley.

Blackburn said she is proud similar Air Force child and youth services flights have modeled their programs after Wright-Patterson.

“Our talented and amazing staff is very committed and works hard to provide exceptional services and care to our families,” she said.  

Crunching the numbers

The Resource Management Flight may not have the most glamorous job description but without its assistance, many of 88 FSS’ flights and programs would go unfunded.

“We are here to support the activities that fall under FSS and help them execute their missions,” said Paul Werry, Resource Management Flight chief. “Whether it is buying food for kids at the child development centers or paying its staff, we are here to make sure things go without financial issues throughout our squadron.”

With a staff of 24 employees, Resource Management oversees an non-appropriated funds accounting office, which manages more than 12,000 transactions monthly. In addition, the flight manages purchasing, appropriated fund financial management, information technology, a vehicle fleet, contracting and the installation’s recycling center, among other programs throughout 88 FSS.

“Our job is to make sure our bills get paid effectively and efficiently, along with being accounted for appropriately,” Werry said. “Our flight’s support is critical in helping the squadron and its other flights be able to do their jobs.”

Connecting with the community

For the Community Services Flight, taking care of people is its passion.

“We are here to support recreation, fun and morale while ensuring that our Airmen, civilians and families enjoy their time at Wright-Patterson,” said Brandon Dixon, Community Services Flight chief. “Our goal is to provide morale, welfare and recreation on this installation.”

From operating the installation’s golf courses to offering themed buffet lunches at the Wright-Patt Club, the flight also oversees various programs and facilities, including the Consolidated Hobby Complex; Kittyhawk Lanes Bowling Center; Outdoor Recreation; Information, Tickets and Travel Office; Rod and Gun Club; all base restaurants and Wright-Patterson’s Unite Funds, among other initiatives.

Community Services also manages the Wright-Patt Club and all its related catering services for special events focusing its efforts on marketing the facility as a go-to location for retirements, weddings, receptions and parties.

Air Force Club membership and usage continues to decrease throughout the service as patrons tend to travel off base for their hospitality needs, said Dixon, adding one of his main goals is to “have one of the few self-sustaining clubs in the Air Force.” 

With 160 military and civilian employees, the flight also actively plans installation-wide events for families. Popular events include Wright-Patterson’s annual Halloween festivities and the highly attended holiday tree lighting each December.

“Wright-Patterson is a place that people like to spend their military and civilian careers at,” Dixon said. “We want to add to their experiences here by providing them with opportunities to have fun when they are not in the office.”

Caring for our Airmen

Focusing on the day-to-day needs of Airmen, the Sustainment Services Flight, led by Flight Chief Patrick Butler, provides the tools and resources to ensure military on Wright-Patterson are fed, lodged and physically fit.

It accomplishes the mission by managing two dining facilities, three fitness centers, Defense Department lodging and the installation’s Official Mail Center.

Providing top-notch accommodations for service members and their families, lodging is often the first stop when coming to Wright-Patterson. The lodging team welcomes more than 16,000 guests annually with 447 rooms at an average 77 percent occupancy rate. Wright-Patterson Inns is managed and operated by 62 employees.

Among its other duties, Sustainment Services oversees the base’s three fitness centers: Wright Field, Jarvis and Dodge. The facilities provide more than 600 large pieces of equipment utilized by 200,000 patron visits each year.

To ensure military members are fit to fight, these facilities also enable them to perform 10,000 physical fitness assessments and host more than 24 events annually.

Preparing Airmen, families for future goals

Supporting a region that includes six states, Wright-Patterson’s Military & Family Readiness Center helps Airmen and their families as they arrive on base until they leave the service.

With a core staff of 17 civilian and military personnel, the flight is essential to mission success and building resilience by equipping service members and their families with skills to navigate the challenges of military life.

“Most of what we do are Air Force-mandated services,” said Eric Thayer, Military and Family Readiness Flight chief, adding his staff oversees 17 programs, including Transition Assistance Program, Exceptional Family Member Program, Employment Assistance Program, Air Force Families Forever, Casualty Assistance, Spouse Employment Assistance and Personal Financial Management.

“We have a dedicated staff who really care about the Airmen and their families. Our goal always is to ensure we provide whatever tools they need to succeed during their time at Wright-Patterson and once they leave the Air Force.”

As one of MFRC’s largest initiatives, the federally mandated TAP requires service members to begin the process two years in advance of their retirement or separation dates. It provides two in-person course sessions each month, reaching about 50 Airmen monthly and 950 annually.

TAP includes initial and pre-separation counseling, a workshop and capstone.

“The Military & Family Readiness Center has changed a lot over the years since it was once the Family Support Center,” Thayer said. “However, no matter what we do or the different programs we are now mandated to support, our goal remains to always be there to help our service members and their families.”

‘Dominating the dirty work’

Like similar people-focused squadrons, 88 FSS continues to refine its mission to “dominate the dirty work” and ensure Wright-Patt’s Airmen, staff and families are supported at all times.

“Our wealth of services is so wide that we are able to reach so many people,” Bills said. “No matter the task, we are here to support our esprit de corps and help ensure we remain the strongest Air Force in the world.”