WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — Col. Patrick Miller addressed concerns about base employment, COVID-19, and the area’s bid for Space Force HQ in his first meeting with local media on Thursday.
Miller, who took command of the 88th Air Base Wing and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in June, emphasized that the base continues to “support lethality and readiness” across the Department of the Air Force.
Though projected job growth at the installation is uncertain, there have been no layoffs or furloughs at Wright-Patt, despite the ongoing pandemic. This includes no layoffs among contractors or mission partners to his knowledge, Miller said. All 30,000 employees continue to work towards the mission of the Air Force, whether on the installation or at home.
With the initial coronavirus lockdown, there was an impact on contract workers, Miller said. However, throughout the pandemic, the base’s 115 mission partners have continued working on major projects. Wright-Patterson recently awarded the final piece of the $180 million contract NASIC construction project, and repairs continue on the airfield’s short runway.
“All those missions continued to happen,” Miller said. “We just did them a little differently, and we had to find ways to support our workforce to do that.”
Much of the Air Force’s mission is still being conducted remotely. The base is currently under Health Protection Condition (HPC) Charlie. As such, 20 percent of the workforce is currently allowed back inside the installation. Under the next step up, HPC Bravo, up to 50 percent of workers may be allowed back on base. Currently, the commander does not have a date for when that new HPC code may be implemented, though there is evidence it could be soon.
“We’re tracking daily positive rates, daily hospitalizations, daily symptoms. On base it doesn’t look any different,” Miller said. “Our (positive COVID-19) rates look very similar to how the community looks. We haven’t had any major pockets of cross-transmission on the installation, so that tells me we’re doing the right thing.”
As the transition to remote working has not slowed or hindered the mission of the Air Force, leaders are considering implementing teleworking more permanently.
Both Miller and Command Chief MSgt. Jason Shaffer bring one thing in common to their new positions: the philosophy of servant leadership. Miller emphasized throughout his comments the symbiosis the Air Force has with the surrounding communities.
“We’re mission focused, people driven,” he said. “We’re about establishing trusted relationships with the community and capitalizing on synergies that we can come together on.”
The commander has worked together with the Dayton Development Coalition, the driving organization behind the area’s bid for Space Command HQ. The base provides information and support for the DDC, though the commander does not have a say in the actual selection process.
“I am an interested party, but I do not get a vote,” he said.
Some of the staff at Wright-Patterson is already in the process of transitioning to the Space Force. For those airmen and civilians currently working at the base, it isn’t just about getting a new boss.
“It’s a recognition and pride in the protection of the space domain,” Miller said. “Their job is not changing, their supervisor may not even change. We saw the same thing when the Air Force was coming out of the Army. It’s establishing culture and identity. That’s what the Space Force is going through right now.”