SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --
Col. Robert G. Smoker assumed command of Task Force 99 from Lt. Col. Erin K. Brilla during a ceremony at Shaw Air Force Base Feb. 23.
Lt. Gen. Alexus G. Grynkewich, Ninth Air Force (Air Forces Central) commander, presided over the change of command.
“Rob, I know you eagerly await the challenge ahead, leading this truly dynamic and unique task force,” said the general. “Every day, Airmen of Task Force 99 are playing a decisive role, innovating new processes, new technologies, and developing new approaches to deliver dominant combat power and integrated command and control and secure and stabilize the region. You have high-powered Airmen who are showing up with great skills and getting the job done.”
Smoker joins the 9 AF (AFCENT) team from State College Air Station in Pennsylvania, most recently the commander of the 193rd Air Intelligence Squadron. The U.S. Air Force Academy graduate has had multiple deployments to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in support of Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
“Rob is going to make a huge impact in the growth curve that Erin started,” said the general, who charged the new commander to continue to empower the team to achieve mission success. “I want you to identify and break down barriers and unleash your members’ potential. Let your team run until apprehended. We're excited to see how you carry Task Force 99's momentum into the future.”
Task Force 99 is the cornerstone of 9th AF (AFCENT)’s approach to U.S. Central Command’s intent of building a Culture of Innovation by using commercial off-the-shelf technology. It is the aerial complement to the U.S. Navy’s Task Force 59 and the U.S. Army’s Task Force 39. These task forces create a technology development ecosystem that allows increased awareness and faster decision-making across all domains and to place cutting-edge tools in the hands of warfighters and decision makers.
As commander, Smoker and his team of Airmen who operate out of Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, will continue Task Force 99 efforts, working with vendors and leaders from academia and government agencies, as well as coalition partners, to innovate and experiment with technology in 9 AF (AFCENT)’s 21-country area of responsibility.
In his first comments as the new commander, Smoker noted his hopes for his Task Force 99 Airmen.
“To the team, I pledge to do my best to allow you all to be the best innovators you can be and to continue to set the unit up for success now and in the future,” he said.
Lt. Col. Erin Brilla, whose 9 AF (AFCENT) deployment is coming to a close, will return to her position with the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Sensors Special Projects, 645th Aeronautical Systems Group, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. Brilla led the unit since its establishment Oct. 13, 2022.
Upon the inception of the unit, Grynkewich tasked Brilla and her team to focus on three lines of effort: increasing awareness of the air domain, accelerating the speed of the targeting cycle, and imposing dilemmas on adversaries. In his outgoing comments to her, the general had nothing but praise:
“They have delivered every single time on my intent, leveraging unmanned and digital technologies, developing those innovative solutions along those lines of effort,” said Grynkewich. “These are incredible accomplishments Erin, and a testament to your leadership and the outstanding men and women of Task Force 99.”