News>Feature - Airman integrates Air Force in joint ops
Brig. Gen. Russ Handy, 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq commander, pins on the meritorious service medal on Maj. David Och, 9th AETF-I joint operations center senior watch officer, Feb. 25, 2011, Baghdad. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Joseph Coslett)
Maj. David Och, 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq joint operations center senior watch officer, stands patiently while Brig. Gen. Russ Handy, 9th AETF-I commander, recaps his efforts supporting Airmen in Iraq, Feb. 25, 2011, Baghdad. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Joseph Coslett)
by Maj. Joseph Coslett
9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq Public Affairs
3/19/2011 - BAGHDAD -- The joint operations center senior watch officer for the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq, Maj. David Och, ensured the Air Force smoothly and efficiently coordinated with the Army and other joint entities in Iraq.
"The JOC is manned by various units and staff sections," said the major from Pittsburg, Penn. "We are the 9 AETF-I's representative for Air Force issues to current joint operations; vice-a-versa, we keep Air Force leadership informed of ground operations."
When JOC Airmen first arrive, Brig. Gen. Russ Handy, 9th AETF-I commander, briefs them on the unique nature of their position.
"We talk about how working on this embedded staff in the JOC can sometimes make you feel like you are detached from the rest of the Air Force," he said. "When these guys get here, the deal is you sit amongst about 200 joint officers, mostly U.S. Army, and bring an Airman's perspective to the JOC."
Major Och like many other Airmen entered a culture shock when thrown into the joint environment.
"My biggest challenge is working with primarily Army personnel, they have a different culture and a different way of operating," the Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., major said. "Embedded with the Army, I had to learn how they execute missions to effectively execute ours."
He continued, in a lot of ways the Army has a different organizational structure, jargon, processes and way of reporting information. To get through it, he listed and asked questions with an open mind, integrating the Air Force and appropriate actions.
During around the clock operations, Major Och crafted two daily summaries and more than 250 situation reports from multiple sources, providing the Air Force's senior Airman in Iraq an instant snapshot of airpower execution, tanker availability and airlift capability across the Iraqi joint operations area.
"Major Och was an exceptional watch officer, the best I've seen to date," General Handy said. "He looks for opportunities to fix problems. Without being asked, he found ways to resolve tough issues and shows up with the process to fix them! He did this until the morning he departed Iraq."
The major used his problem solving skills to tackle a life or death issue.
"I don't like to accept the status quo," he said. "I made some significant changes to the way we operate in the JOC. I authored a couple of special instructions and changes about the way surface-to-air fires are reported. Also, how they are communicated from the Air Force to the Army."
An example is when the JOC receives reports from U.S. Air Force aircraft or units, the new process ensured the rapid flow of information to joint ground units. This enabled them to quickly react, take actions and investigate threats. His process allowed for the monitoring and reporting of more than 50 surface-to-air attacks.
Another duty of Major Och is to reverse the flow of information from more than 200 joint personnel to Air Force leadership. The Army operates with FRAGOs or fragmentary orders. The JOC Airmen developed a process to vet all orders and determine if they were pertinent to a variety of Air Force personnel.
"Basically when they were about to publish an order we read it, determined if it was applicable, agreed or requested changes," he said. "We would coordinate with joint staff offices, to put the Airman's point of view on the operations properly integrating with them."
Major Och shared some final thoughts, "General Handy, I appreciate the fact you let us know what was going on in your mind and other senior leaders' minds - sometimes, even the stuff behind closed doors. This is my first opportunity to see operational and strategic decision making."
Working in the JOC, he jokingly said, "Is like being the water boy for the 9 AETF-I. All kidding aside, I feel the work the staff did planning for the future of Iraq will increase their success, leading to increased safety and security in the Middle East."
General Handy during Major Och's departure gave some parting compliments.
"It is amazing having a major making impacts at, no kidding, the strategic level for the nation of Iraq and the region," he said. "Your incredible actions set a legacy for the rest of the year, and frankly, set a legacy for the Air Force in the joint community for the long term."