‘We’re Bizarre’: New Commander Particulars Life Inside Activity Pressure 99

Activity Pressure 99, an Air Forces Central unit, has taken on outsize significance in U.S. Central Command’s efforts to advertise itself as essentially the most revolutionary and resourceful combatant command now that it will probably not draw the property it had when the Center East was America’s major focus.

Now, after 5 months underneath the command of Lt. Col. Erin Brilla, the fledgling process power is shifting to Col. Robert Smoker.

“I would like you to determine and break down boundaries and unleash your members’ potential,” Lt. Gen. Alexus G. Grynkewich, AFCENT commander, stated on the change of command ceremony Feb. 23 at Shaw Air Pressure Base, S.C. “Let your group run till apprehended. We’re excited to see the way you carry Activity Pressure 99’s momentum into the longer term.”

Below Brilla, Activity Pressure 99 was established in October 2022 as a part of a broader CENTCOM push among the many Military, Navy, and Air Pressure to advertise innovation, unmanned methods, and digital applied sciences resembling synthetic intelligence. Activity Pressure 99’s focus is on adapting industrial unmanned aerial methods (UAS) to suit navy necessities. It not too long ago carried out its first operational check of a mapping drone, which was deemed a hit. The unit is headquartered at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, so members cycle out and in primarily based on their deployments.

Which means a whole lot of turnover. Below Smoker, Activity Pressure 99 will proceed to attempt to reduce by way of a lot of the everyday pink tape to fill positions and discipline new methods rapidly.

“I personally, because the commander, work on taking away these blockers for folks, after which all people else simply does what they’re speculated to be doing that day,” Smoker stated. “We’re not hierarchical in any respect.”

The unit largely has no backup for particular person roles. That’s not completely by design, because the group plans to double within the upcoming months. However presently with 9 Airmen, together with Smoker, the unit is one-deep in particular person abilities. Even when a member rotates out, the unit can not totally change these abilities.

“We’re bringing folks on to do the precise jobs,” Smoker stated. 

As for the colonel now in command, Smoker heard concerning the job from his perch at State School Air Station, Pa., the place he most not too long ago commanded the 193rd Air Intelligence Squadron. It was Smoker’s background that led him to the job.

Like Brilla, he discovered concerning the alternative to command the unit by way of the grapevine. Smoker served on Lively Obligation within the Air Pressure earlier than transferring to the civilian world and staying on within the Air Nationwide Guard. He’s an Air Pressure Academy graduate who like many Airmen of his time had a number of deployments to CENTCOM beforehand in help of Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. After becoming a member of the personal sector, Smoker labored for a startup firm that was purchased by a big protection contractor and labored on tasks fielded by DARPA.

Lt. Gen. Alexus G. Grynkewich, ninth Air Pressure (Air Forces Central) commander, left, presides over a change-of-command ceremony during which Col. Robert G. Smoker succeeds Lt. Col. Erin Okay. Brilla as Activity Pressure 99 commander throughout a ceremony at Shaw Air Pressure Base, South Carolina, Feb. 23, 2023. U.S. Air Pressure picture by Tech. Sgt. Javier Cruz

As somebody with the civilian protection business, from which Activity Pressure 99 is meant to attract its industrial expertise, Smoker says entering into Activity Pressure 99 is considerably much like making use of for a civilian job, with interviews and a questionnaire to finish.

“You’ll be able to’t actually inform, essentially, primarily based on somebody’s navy resume,” he stated. “You could know in the event that they’re a great match or not.”

As soon as they get the job, they’re anticipated to ship, even it means asking for assist from somebody who beforehand wouldn’t been seen as a peer.

“It doesn’t matter in the event that they’re a lieutenant colonel or an A1C,” he stated, referring to an Airman First Class. “We’re bizarre. All people has their job to do and so they do it.”