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Helicopter operations group stands up in Wyoming

Two UH-1N helicopters from the 37th Helicopter fly in formation Jan 9, 2014, over Cheyenne, Wyo. The newly-formed 20th Air Force helicopter operations group set up at F.E. Warren Air Force Base Aug. 1, 2014. The group assumes control of the helicopter squadrons across 20th Air Force sometime in 2015 after it ends its provisional status. (Courtesy photo)

Two UH-1N helicopters from the 37th Helicopter fly in formation Jan 9, 2014, over Cheyenne, Wyo. The newly-formed 20th Air Force helicopter operations group set up at F.E. Warren Air Force Base Aug. 1, 2014. The group assumes control of the helicopter squadrons across 20th Air Force sometime in 2015 after it ends its provisional status. (Courtesy photo)

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. (AFNS) -- The newly-formed 20th Air Force helicopter operations group plants its roots at F.E. Warren Air Force Base Aug. 1.

The group assumes control of the helicopter squadrons across 20th Air Force sometime next year after it ends its provisional status, said Col. Dave Smith, the helicopter operations group commander.

"The mission of the (group), while in provisional status, is to identify, prioritize and create the facility, personnel, communication and process infrastructure required to transfer control of the three helicopter squadrons to the helicopter operations group," Smith said.

The helicopter operations group was formed as a result of a recommendation made during the Air Force Global Strike Command Force Improvement Program, or FIP. Command officials initiated the program as a means for Airmen to take ownership of their mission through grass-roots recommendations to improve mission effectiveness and morale, said Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein, the Task Force 214 and 20th Air Force commander.

"We are making wholesale changes to better empower our Airmen and ensure they have the resources they need," Weinstein said. "This is an unprecedented direction we're taking; normally commanders look for inputs and guidance from senior leaders, but with FIP, we went to the young Airmen who work at the tactical level and got their inputs. We collected roughly 350 recommendations from the folks in the field and the creation of the helicopter operations group is one of the recommendations that we're implementing. It's a very exciting time to be in 20th Air Force."

The plan is to improve mission effectiveness and standardization at all missile wings.

"The main request from the helicopter community was for an aviation-focused chain of command equipped to meet the unique needs of flight operations, all leading to providing the best helicopter support to the (intercontinental ballistic missile) mission," said Bart Beisner, the 20th Air Force FIP coordinator. "This new structure also gives the Airmen in the helicopter community a new avenue to grow professionally through a defined career path."

Though Smith wasn't part of the initial planning process, he said admires those who got the group to its current status.

"The bottom line is that this change in organizational structure is about providing the best possible helicopter support," Smith said. "The project officers at Global Strike, 20th Air Force and the three wings have all done an outstanding job getting us to provisional status. We will continue to work through provisional status until we are ready to take control of the helicopter squadrons."

The new group assumes control of the 37th Helicopter Squadron, 40th HS and the 54th HS along with a newly-formed operations support squadron tailored for the three helicopter squadrons next year, Smith said.

"Getting it done right is more important than getting it done quickly," Smith emphasized.

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