Government, contract logistics and information technology professionals gathered at the Fourth Annual Dayton-Wright AFCEA and Wright Brothers Logistics Officers Association Air Force Logistics IT Summit at Wright State University, Fairborn, Ohio, in June.
Keynote speakers included Maj. Gen. Allan E. Day, USAF; Sara Keller; Shawn Lyman; Shawn Harrison; Roy Lancaster; Col. Chuck Destafani, USAF; Rich Aldridge; and Staff Sgt. Shilo Harris, USA (Ret.).
With an upcoming move to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Gen. Day was serving his final day as the director of logistics, Civil Engineering, Force Protection and Nuclear Integration, at Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. He opened the summit by addressing the fact that Air Force logistics are at a critical point in history. He referenced a 2018 article by then-Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who said every U.S. weapon's system is at this same critical point called a strategic inflection point.
"A strategic inflection point is a period when an organization must respond to change or face deterioration," said Day, who pointed to the B-1 bomber and its current 20 percent mission capable rate as one example, then moved to cyber threats from China, Russia and other potential adversaries, stating, "We, as an Air Force, either adapt to the threats or risk failure."
After Day's poignant introduction, Keller, Lyman and Harrison convened on a senior logistician panel to speak about Air Force logistics challenges and how data and the IT community can support. Following that, Lancaster spoke about Naval Air challenges and improving interoperability with the Air Force. Prior to lunch, AFCEA recognized these award winners: John Garrity, Distinguished Young AFCEAN; David Dodds, Medal of Merit; Adrianna Templeton-Jones, Medal of Merit; Jim Masonbrink, AFCEA Small Business Person of the Year finalist; and both Segue Technologies and SRISYS as AFCEA Small Business of the Year finalists.
A Tactical Initiatives Panel convened after lunch to address issues of rapid sustainment, the supply chain and data lifecycle analytics. The day ended with emotional anecdotes from Harris, a combat-wounded Purple Heart retired Army staff sergeant, who survived a 700-pound improvised-explosive device blast in Iraq.
The intent of Harris speaking was to directly connect the mission of Air Force Logistics IT with the warfighters it supports. This segment aligned with the AFCEA Armed Forces Military Outreach program and was supported by Segue Technologies. Harris shared how on his second deployment with the 10th Mountain Division, he was assigned and worked near southern Baghdad. On February 19, 2007, Harris' armored vehicle was struck by an IED. The explosion injured the driver and killed three of Harris' fellow soldiers. Harris suffered severe third-degree burns on 35 percent of his body, and lost both ears, his nose and three fingers in the attack.
Harris' path to recovery was intense, he said, as he described how he was in a medically induced coma for 48 days, and spent nearly three years recovering at the Brooks Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
Segue graciously provided Harris's book STEEL WILL to each summit attendee as a take away. Harris signed each copy and personalized individual messages for all attendees desiring such a message. Additionally, three other VIPs were present at the summit, including Purple Heart recipient Maj. Tim O'Sullivan, USAF (Ret.); Bronze Star with Valor and Purple Heart recipient Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace, USAF (Ret.); and Gold Star father Jim Groves, whose son, Chief Warrant Officer (CW3) James E. Groves, III, USA, was killed near Kandahar, Afghanistan.
"To me, [Harris' motivation speech] was the highlight of the summit," said Steve Hannaford, the summit conference chair.
"The guy captured my heart and many others I'm sure. One of my new mottos to myself is, ‘Are you done, soldier?'," Hannaford added, referring to when Harris' father visited him in Brooke Army Medical Center and motivated him to get out of bed and start his physical therapy.
"Everything in life is a gift," said Harris. "Sometimes it may not be the gift you want, but you realize that your challenges are a new beginning."
The AFCEA Armed Forces Military Outreach program is a collaborative effort across AFCEA International to increase direct support for warfighters, especially those most impacted, combat wounded warriors and fallen hero families. David Hart, regional vice president, Midwest Region, and board member, chairs the committee.