By Ms. Jennifer Yates, 618 AOC Chief of Safety
When an aircrew calls the 618th Air Operations Center (AOC) at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois for assistance, it is usually the Execution Floor personnel who answer the call.
The Execution Floor is composed of personnel from several divisions, all working together to make a mission successful. The mission execution phase starts 24 hours before initial departure (or earlier for nights, weekends, and holidays) and ends when the team records the final arrival and closes the mission. One of those team members is MSgt Christopher Sabecky, an Instructor Duty Officer (DO). He transferred to the 618 AOC in 2018 after six years of experience as a C-17 Loadmaster at Travis Air Force Base in California. He volunteered to join the 618 AOC because the mission sounded interesting, and he was looking forward to advancing his career and the “30,000-foot view” of missions. Sabecky has already learned a tremendous amount in his short time at the 618 AOC and looks forward to eventually taking the knowledge with him to his next assignment.
As a duty officer, Sabecky works closely with the Deputy Directors of Operation and Command and Control personnel (1C3s). DO training is 3 weeks of formal classroom training followed by six training shifts before being certified. Once certified, DOs act as the primary focal point to ensure senior leadership and other key members of the 618 AOC receive appropriate and accurate mobility information.
Sabecky executes 15 to 20 missions in a shift, managing challenges ranging from aircraft maintenance issues to Aeromedical Evacuations (AE). Some of his primary duties include monitoring and ensuring accurate data in the Global Decision Support System, including airfield operating hours, significant airfield conditions, and Aviation Operational Risk Management (AvORM). Additionally, Sabecky ensures timely updates of data requested by aircrews, such as weather and notices to Airmen. DOs work with a wide range of both internal and external agencies. Sabecky explained that a seasoned DO will reach out to as many agencies as necessary to ensure the most up-to-date information is captured and relayed to the crew to enable mission success.
Sabecky says his favorite part of being a DO is being able to see the big picture because he can observe multiple missions instead of flying only one mission. “There is never a dull moment on the floor, and every day is different,” Sabecky said. “You never know what you are walking into.” One of the most exciting missions he experienced was a double air refueling for an AE patient. “All hands [were] on deck and [it] required working hand in hand with tankers for coordination.” Some of the challenges a DO faces include customs holds and loss of diplomatic clearances.
The 618 AOC is transitioning to a single airlift planning directorate, and Sabecky is one of the first DOs in training as a contingency planner. Because he has already attended formal DO training, he will complete his planning division instruction on the job. He said it is very intense and distinct from being on the execution side of operations. During execution, 1C3s help to get prior permissions required, review Giant Reports, and assess flight plans and diplomatic clearance requirements, but as a planner, you are on your own. He believes his experience as a DO will be helpful, and he will be able to share his knowledge as a planner with the execution floor, including uploading the user, contact email, and discussion into the planning system. This information can be vital to understanding the history and background of a mission or make it easier to contact someone in the middle of the night.
In both planning and execution, Sabecky emphasized that 618 AOC personnel make every effort to assist the aircrews. Unfortunately, the implications of slipping a mission can have a domino effect. The 618 AOC strives to find some middle ground between the user and the crew, or if possible, help them out later. For example, Sabecky explained that if a crew was stuck overnight at a location with less than adequate crew rest facilities, a couple of legs afterward the 618 AOC might have them remain overnight somewhere with better lodging and food options and possibly an extended time for crew rest. The 618 AOC tries not to burn crews out and uses AvORM to balance user vs. crew requirements to devise a workable plan, but unfortunately, AvORM has drawbacks. It is a valuable tool, but needs to be more user-friendly and adaptable. He said the mission is always a balancing act with diplomatic clearances, cargo, users, aircraft, and crew.
His final parting comment to crews is to work with the 618 AOC to develop a plan when a mission does not go smoothly. If it is actionable, 618 AOC personnel will do their best to make it happen.