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Airman’s Perspective: 19 OSS, Offutt AFB Professional Development TDY

Airman poses for a picture

Senior Airman Tiearra Ashe, 19th Operations Support Squadron intelligence analyst, poses for a photo at the 41st Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Aug. 6, 2021. Ashe and fifteen other 19th OSS Airmen recently completed a professional development TDY, touring Offutt AFB, Nebraska and Air Combat Command’s 55th Wing and the 557th Weather Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jayden Ford)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

Sixteen members from the 19th Operational Support Squadron recently completed a unit professional development trip to Offutt Air Force Base where they had the opportunity to learn about a few diverse mission sets within Air Combat Command. This is the perspective of one of those members, Senior Airman Tiearra Ashe.

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” – Michael Jordan, National Basketball Association Hall of Famer.

I took this philosophy and mindset during a recent professional development opportunity—a squadron-sponsored 2-day visit to Air Combat Command’s 55th Wing and the 557th Weather Wing located at Offutt AFB, Nebraska. This professional development opportunity broadened my horizons in several different areas, to include: occupation performance as an intelligence analyst, cross integration with multiple Air Force Specialty Codes, networking, and most importantly, discovering desired learning objectives directed to mission success and applying what I’ve learned to operations here in the 19th Airlift Wing.

The 55th Wing's mission statement is to, "Provide dominant intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and nuclear command and control to national leadership and warfighters, any time, any place." On the Offutt trip I was honored to study a multitude of assets such as the variants of the RC-135 along with their capabilities and contributions to Sensitive Reconnaissance Operations (SROs). The RC-135 is a reconnaissance and intelligence platform and each variant has unique abilities. The three variants of the RC-135 include the RC-135V/W Rivet Joint, RC-135S Cobra Ball, and RC-135U Combat Sent. There are only three Cobra Ball aircraft worldwide and I had the opportunity to actually tour one.  Notably, the Cobra Ball’s distinctive black-painted wing not only demonstrates the innovation of glint on imagery sensing, but it has become an intelligence community staple.  An opportunity to view this asset firsthand is uncommon, therefore, in my opinion, it was a once in a lifetime experience.

The Cobra Ball has extraordinary aptitudes just as the other RC-135 variants do, however, it is specifically designed to track ballistic missile launches as well as support signals intelligence efforts. On the tour of the Cobra Ball, I was educated on the unique capabilities at a classified level and the complexity of the integration methods used by the personnel operating each sensor. Each individual operates unique capabilities that one would expect to find in a movie or science fiction novel. In action, those surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities become a well-tuned orchestra making a harmonious composition.

“Networking is not about just connecting people--It's about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities." -- Michele Jennae, author of The Connectworker.

Offutt AFB not only houses one of the most strategically important U.S. Air Force airframes, but it is also home to the only Weather Wing in the Department of Defense. The 557th Weather Wing integrates high-fidelity weather data and knowledge for mission planning which supports combat and deterrence operations on both tactical and strategic levels. My primary takeaway from our tour reflected the importance of mission planning and exploiting weather for mission success. This variable is crucial when developing an Intelligence Preparation for the Operational Environment (IPOE) product.

Finally, from discussions with intelligence counterparts at Offutt during this trip, I learned techniques that I was able to bring back and apply to practices within my flight to further enhance our IPOE efforts in near-real-time. Furthermore, I was able to network and exchange information with a variety of intelligence analysts, which resulted in broadening my network and strengthening my resources for analysis within my unit. Collaborating with different AFSCs during the trip expanded my knowledge on the dimensions and abilities of the greatest Air Force in the world.

Overall, this temporary duty travel to Offutt was an unforgettable experience.  I am extremely grateful to have been invited and thrilled to have had the opportunity to participate in a joint environment. I also enjoyed getting to know more of my fellow 19 OSS Titans from different AFSCs like airfield management, weather, aircrew, and air traffic control. Integration with the 55th and 557th Wings humbled me, and reminded me that the battle environment is always evolving. It is easy to view subjects from the perspective of my own AFSC and duties, but stepping out of my comfort zone and learning about different roles reminded me that we are all crucial pieces to a large, complex puzzle. This experience has taught me the value of not only learning and representing my own craft, but the ability to draw strengths and new perspectives from others.