Grand Forks squadron named best small comm unit in AF

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Luis Loza Gutierrez
  • 319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
The members of the 319th Communications Squadron here have an extra reason to walk a little taller after recently being named the best small communications unit in the Air Force.

The cyber warriors of the 319th CS won the 2013 Air Force Information Dominance Small Unit Award at the Air Force level.

"It takes a tremendous amount of professionalism, proficiency, and passion to win an award of this caliber," said Col. Paul Bauman, the 319th Air Base Wing commander, in an official announcement to the base. "They took home the Air Mobility Command-level award a few weeks ago and now have proven that they are truly the best in the entire Air Force."

The Air Force Information Dominance award recognizes a communications and information organization each year for excellent support to the Air Force mission.

"I think what helped the squadron earn this award was a mentality that dictates being part of a team is the most important thing," said Lt. Col. Frank Gonzalez, the 319th CS commander. "All these people come together every single day to make the sum greater than the whole, and frankly, that's why I think these Airmen earned this award."

The communications squadron has a long list of actions that led to their recognition.

One notable example is the new way in which the squadron approached machine patching, a process Gonzalez described as mundane and very time consuming.

He added that by taking time to think about how to best approach the problem, the Airmen developed new tools that helped them save 24,000 man-hours of work.

"That's like creating eleven-and-a-half new people to work solely on one thing for a whole year," Gonzalez said. "They basically found a way to 'do more with less.' In fact, this process is so good, we are working with Air Force-level folks at Peterson Air Force Base (Colorado) to try to leverage these tools in other places."

Another example of the squadron's notable actions involved the performance of the Airmen in the airfield, radar and radio sections, who earned an outstanding rating during an airfield operations and certification inspection that took place earlier this year alongside members of the 319th Operations Support Squadron.

Out of 416 graded areas, they had only one minor write-up that was corrected on the spot. It was a feat Gonzalez didn't hesitate to emphasize the uniqueness and importance of.

"Over a two-year period, only one other unit in Air Mobility Command was assessed as outstanding," Gonzalez said. "This is a big deal because most of these Airmen in these sections are first-termers and new to the Air Force. In fact, at the time there was only one senior NCO and two NCOs throughout those shops. What got them the big win was a desire to do the job right and young people stepping up with a 'next person up' mentality."

Although the Air Force-level award reflects the dedication and hard work of 151 Airmen as a whole, Gonzalez was quick to point it shouldn't be lost on anyone that this award really isn't just about the communications squadron.

"There is no way our Airmen could have been competitive without the support of everyone on this base," he said. "From customers that give us unique opportunities to excel on a day-to-day basis, to the leaders that are engaged and set the stage for risk-taking and innovation, Team Grand Forks should be proud ... this award is a testament of how we integrated into the larger team to find innovation and assure victory."

Needless to say, a change in the squadron's overall morale has taken place especially among the junior enlisted Airmen who found it easy to echo Gonzalez's sentiments.

"There is a lot of great work going on here at Grand Forks Air Force Base, not to mention in the Air Force as a whole, so to even be considered for this award is a great honor for our squadron," said Airman 1st Class Olivia Winks, a 319th CS commanders support staff journeyman. "To be a part of those that were recognized for being the number one communications squadron in the Air Force is absolutely amazing. I am privileged to work alongside the dedicated and hardworking members of the 319th Communication Squadron and the 319th Air Base Wing whom we support."

One Airman believes the squadron's recent recognition will positively affect not just the unit's current members, but future Airmen assigned to the unit.

"You know there are many people who would probably not get excited about being stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base," said Senior Airman Kyle Becker, a 319th CS knowledge operations manager. "It's a small base with a nontraditional flying mission and notoriously known for harsh winter weather, but knowing that you are part of the best unit of its kind in the entire Air Force is something I think any Airman can be excited about."