Official websites use .mil
Secure .mil websites use HTTPS
By 2nd Lt. Justin Davidson-Beebe, 21st Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 11, 2017
Jeff Wiseheart, 21st Operations Group, technical director, one of four civilians interviewed, works at his desk at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, Dec 7, 2017. The 21st Space Wing employees over 1,000 civilians in support of its global mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Hoffman)
Civilians in the 21st Space Wing perform a variety of important jobs that have an impact on accomplishing the Wing’s mission. There are over 1,000 civilian employees assigned to the Wing locally at Peterson Air Force Base and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station.
The 21st SW’s vision statement is to “Assert space superiority with disciplined, aggressive, and creative Airmen.” An important part of accomplishing this mission rests with civilian Airmen within the Wing, personnel who are often prior military members.
Their contributions range from managing the budget, to making sure the facilities and infrastructure are reliable, to repairing and upgrading weapons systems, and ensuring contractors are executing contracts efficiently.
For example, Robert DiAntonio, 21st Comptroller Squadron, chief of financial management analysis, brings financial resources to the fight.
DiAntonio understands the financial requirements, and delivers and enables the mission through financial channels. His responsibilities include paying bills from the past, executing finances today, and planning for future financial requirements in the Wing.
DiAntonio’s job requires coordination at the highest levels, communicating with higher headquarters, Air Force Space, and Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center in regards to finances. Essentially, he guarantees the Wing is following financial regulations.
DiAntonio’s personnel bring financial advice and counsel to their customers. Groups like the 21st Operations Group, the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron, and 21st Communications Squadron benefit from their assistance. Budget office personnel work closely with contracting to turn around and deliver anything needed to accomplish the mission.
The Wing’s mission is difficult, and not easily compared to other wings in the Air Force. With six real property installations, and 14 geographically-separated units, the Wing is the most geographically dispersed in the Air Force.
“Continuity, expertise, experience, history, and training” are all things civilians contribute to the Wing, Diantonio added. “It takes all of us.”
Another example of a civilian contributing to the mission is Todd Wynn, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron, deputy base civil engineer, who ensures the facilities and infrastructure, or the lifeblood, of the mission are in working order.
CES’ job is providing reliable facilities and reliable infrastructure, and civilians make up about a third of the CE squadron, Wynn said.
Wynn’s job is similar to that of the 21st CES commander, but for civilian personnel instead of military personnel within CES. He takes care of and manages the civilian workforce.
Wynn closely advises the 21st CES commander on civilian related issues in the unit and acts on behalf of the commander when necessary.
21st CES has a wide variety of flights performing important functions, and civilians make certain that there is continuity in the training and solid mentorship of active duty Airmen in the unit.
Operations, engineering, installation management flight, fire emergency services, explosive ordinance disposal, and readiness and emergency management flights are all members of 21st CES.
Civilians are the backbone of the organization, Wynn said, and with as many tasks as CE has in front of it, it’s easy to see why.
Civilians make sure things run smoothly in CE, even when deployment ops tempos are high. Civilians are able to deploy within CE to help take some of the load off of the military members within the squadron.
“A lot of the job mentoring comes from the civilian side,” he added.
There’s also Jeff Wiseheart, 21st Operations Group, technical director, who makes certain the weapons systems are maintained, and improved, whenever possible.
Wiseheart explained that civilians in the 21st OG have roles operating the radars. They perform roles such as maintenance leads and systems analysts. Civilians in the 21st OG work at almost all of the Wing’s locations such as Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Cape Cod Air Force Station, Massachusetts, and Beale and Vandenberg Air Force Bases, California. Units within the Wing such as the 18th Space Control Squadron and 20th SPCS have major civilian populations.
Civilians work behind the scenes a lot of the time, Wiseheart explained.
“The continuity civilians bring is vital,” Wiseheart said.
Programs within the 21st OG can take up to eight years to fully develop, a span of time that would see multiple commanders pass through assignments within the ops group. Without the continual civilian presence, these rotations would have a negative effect on the mission, and experience, long term expertise, and insight would be lost, Wiseheart explained.
Accomplishing the mission would be really difficult without civilians, who perform many administrative governmental tasks that military members are not burdened with, Wiseheart added.
Civilians are at the forefront of integrating high tech weapons systems, like the Space Fence, into the Wing for tomorrow’s fight, and ensuring that it is resourced properly.
A large chunk of the workload is on the civilian workforce, mostly in 21st OSS, to transition the Long Range Discrimination Radar, which is a Missile Defense Agency developed radar, Wiseheart said.
Civilians get the right manpower, the right contract vehicles set up to support these new technologies, and maintenance and facilities are largely set up by civilians for these new technologies, Wiseheart said.
One final example of a civilian is Edmund Bohn, 21st Space Wing, director program management division.
“PMD is an acquisition organization within an operational Wing.” Bohn said.
Part of the PMD’s job is to actively manage the contracts, and ensure contractors are doing the jobs their contracts describe, Bohn said.
There are around 900 contractors working on contracts, costing approximately $1 billion, to support the mission and the GSUs within their portfolio.
PMD provides program management, requirement definitions, funding prioritization, and the performance management of the contracts, saving many millions of dollars, Bohn said.
“Three key areas that we bring as civilians are credibility, continuity, and consistency,” he added.
Program management also trains incoming personnel at Thule Air Base, Greenland, a critical function in light of a 100 percent turnover on an annual basis.
The ability for civilians to adapt and evolve enables the mission to continue through ever changing military leadership, Bohn explained.
Bohn works to ensure personnel are aware of Space Command Commander’s Strategic Intent, and the strategic plan, to inform his organization’s direction and how it fits into the mission. He explained that civilians take an oath just as military members do, and take it very seriously.
Civilians are also eligible to be recommended for decorations, something Bohn does not think happens often enough. He has worked hard to put personnel within and outside his organization who support PMD efforts up for awards to be recognized for exceptional performance.
DiAntonio, Wynn, Wiseheart, and Bohn are only four Airmen out of many on Peterson Air Force Base. The Wing’s mission is accomplished more effectively with the combined efforts of military and civilian personnel. Civilian contributions are just as important as uniformed personnel to winning today’s and tomorrow’s fight.