Fostering positive change: Team Pete Airman helping improve life for battlefield airmen

Tech Sgt. Robert Hicks III, 16th Space Control Squadron mission assurance flight chief, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, as the Battlefield Airmen Retention Survey portion of the Battlefield Airman Force Improvement Program survey team, helped simplify data gathering and was selected to be a subject matter expert when survey findings are briefed to the Vice-Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Stephen Wilson. (U.S. Air Force photo by Robb Lingley)

Tech Sgt. Robert Hicks III, 16th Space Control Squadron mission assurance flight chief, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, as the Battlefield Airmen Retention Survey portion of the Battlefield Airman Force Improvement Program survey team, helped simplify data gathering and was selected to be a subject matter expert when survey findings are briefed to the Vice-Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Stephen Wilson. (U.S. Air Force photo by Robb Lingley)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- He said it is just a small piece of the larger Battlefield Airmen Force Improvement Program, but Tech Sgt. Robert Hicks III, 16th Space Control Squadron mission assurance flight chief, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, sees his work affecting positive change in the Air Force.

From Aug. 14- Sept. 1, 2017, Hicks participated in the Battlefield Airmen Retention Survey portion of the BA FIP, which can only be directed by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and championed by the Vice-Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Stephen Wilson. The survey detail consisted of about 60 Airmen who are all part of the BA community.

Hicks was selected to participate based upon his background as a radio maintainer working special operations communications assignments at the Joint Special Operations Command and the Joint Communications Unit, the only tier-1 special operations unit an Air Force communicator can serve in, he said.

When the smoke cleared, Hicks helped simplify the data gathering process and was selected to be a subject matter expert when survey findings are briefed to the VCSAF.

“At first I didn’t know what I was getting into,” Hicks said. “But it was a way to give back to my brothers and sisters in the special operations world.”

“We are extremely proud and excited, but not at all surprised, that Tech Sgt. Hicks was hand-selected by Headquarters Air Force to participate in such important work,” said Lt. Col. Bobby Schmitt, 16th SPCS commander. “His efforts will help shape the future of the Air Force in how we recruit and retain talented Airmen to take on Battlefield Airmen roles, which are some of the toughest jobs we ask our people to do. As expected, his performance with the team was exceptional, which led to his nomination to participate in the final out brief to the VCSAF.”

Schmitt said that while the survey is not specific to operations occurring within Air Force Space Command, he thinks some of their work on how to improve resiliency programs will be applicable to all Airmen and in the long-term will benefit the entire force.

The survey is part of a grass-roots approach. It was created to bring senior Air Force leaders useful information about challenges in the BA world as perceived by the community members. The survey included BA support members and associated members of sister services.

The four teams of surveyors were sent all over the world to reach out to everyone in the BA career field. The survey consisted of about a dozen questions provided in both one-on-one and group environments to get as many responses as possible.

The BA community includes combat controllers, tactical air control parties, combat resource officers, special tactics officers, air liaison officers and their support groups.

“We talked to everyone,” Hicks said. “We got the no holds barred opinions about what needs to be improved in the career field.”

After the data was gathered it became evident that the method of capturing the material did not work well. Hicks came up with an improvement idea and shared it with the survey leadership, who decided to try it out.

“We needed to revamp the method of how to capture data best,” he said. “I built a new way to do it with a better form.”

Hicks assisted the team mining the data and helped establish the use of his form. Due to his knowledge of the process, he was asked by leadership to answer any questions the VCSAF might have related to the communications piece Hicks worked with.

“I felt pretty honored that they asked me to be that SME,” Hicks said. “It’s not every day that you get to be part of something that can change, in a near earth shaking way, the way the Air Force does its mission.”

All the information is collected and compiled, said Hicks, the presentation slides are ready and recommendations prepared. Now it’s just a matter of gathering the correct supporting statistics. He is not sure when the briefing will take place, but is hopeful he will be available to attend and contribute as needed.

“I feel like this is something that needs the highest levels of attention possible,” Hicks said.