Don't want to get 'off it' -- Summer swap helps two lieutenant colonels remain on base
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Stephen Phillips, Air Force Weather Agency Lead Command Management Division chief, poses for an official photo at the 55th Wing Public Affairs studio April 1 at Offutt Air Force, Neb. In June Phillips will take command of the 343rd Recruiting Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jeff Gates/Released)
by Ryan Hansen
55th Wing Public Affairs
4/3/2013 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- When the Air Force Weather Agency's Lead Command Management Division chief and the 343rd Recruiting Squadron commander move on to new assignments this summer, their commutes won't change much.
As AFWA's Lt. Col. Stephen Phillips moves just down the street to take command of the 343rd RCS in June, outgoing commander, Lt. Col. Steve Polomsky, may pass him going the other way as he will take charge of AFWA's Capabilities Division.
While moves like this within the Air Force are not unheard of, they are rare to say the least.
"As my command tour was coming to an end, I requested that if anything was open at Offutt, I'd like to be considered for that position first," Polomsky said. "I wanted to give my daughter the opportunity to finish her senior year in high school, and I wanted to continue serving, so this works out very well."
This unique opportunity to command the 343rd RCS came to Phillips after he requested consideration for command last spring.
"I was selected as a weather squadron command candidate and also released to compete for the local recruiting command," Phillips said. "One of the many selection criteria was my specific request that the selection board consider join-spouse opportunities for my active duty spouse. In the end, receiving the honor of command while not undergoing a (permanent change of station), turned out to fit both the needs of the Air Force and my family."
The recruiting squadron's mission is to find, engage, inspire and recruit the brightest, most competitive and diverse men and women for service in America's Air Force. They do this across a seven state, 370,000 square mile area of America's heartland.
Phillips said he is very pleased the assignment worked out for his family and couldn't be more excited to take on the challenge of leading the 343rd RCS.
"My initial thoughts were definitely excitement and relief, but those were quickly followed by the realization that I have a lot to learn," he said. "During every squadron-level assignment I've had, I watched my commander navigate difficult decisions and challenges and have realized no two command tours are the same."
Add into the mix a squadron that stretches across seven states of the Midwest and Great Plains and includes 100 authorized personnel at 51 locations and there's no doubt this leadership position is unique.
"Certainly a geographically-dispersed command outside my primary Air Force Specialty Code will send me challenges I've never imagined," he said, "but that's how we grow as Airmen."
Polomsky will also have the opportunity to grow as an Airman with his new assignment at AFWA as well.
"I'm a pilot going into a weather guy's world," he said. "Much of my 20 year career was spent using their products to make mission decisions. Many times between a provider and a user intent can be lost in translation because of differences in background, training and culture. I hope I can help enable that communication by clarifying requests and then ensuring AFWA's support is what was needed."
As the chief of the Capabilities Division, Polomsky will help AFWA collect and process validated capability requirements from all military services, defense department and other federal agencies. In addition, he'll help manage synchronization, timing and interdependencies of AFWA programs, procedures and resources associated within the DOD among other duties.
"I'm really looking forward to working with the amazing amount of intellectual and technological talent at AFWA," he said. "The people and technology they have in-place to provide worldwide weather support is incredible."
Polomsky said he's enjoyed his time at the 343rd RCS and the assignment has been extraordinary.
"I am honored and humbled to have the privilege of commanding a squadron in the Air Force," he said. "I'm sure it will be the hallmark of my career. Coming to recruiting was the ultimate broadening experience. If you want to understand your wingman, walk a mile in their shoes. From my time in command, I will always appreciate and value what an Air Force recruiter does to find our country the next generation of Airmen."
AFWA's commander, Col. Louis Zuccarello, said he looks forward to having Polomsky on his team.
"Lt. Col. Polomsky will not only bring a different perspective to our capabilities division, he will bring leadership that goes beyond functional specialty," he said. "As a recent squadron commander, he understands how to lead people to get the mission accomplished. I expect he will do the same to help us develop truly cutting-edge weather capabilities to support the warfighter."
And Zuccarello said he knows Phillips is more than ready to lead the 343rd RCS.
"Lt. Col. Phillips has proved himself time and time again in a number of key positions, both before coming to AFWA and while he's been here," he said. "His experience and success as a squadron director of operations certainly prepared him well for what it takes to make a squadron run. His leadership has resulted in a string of successes that has greatly benefitted our weather forces downrange and across the globe in every area of operations."