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Ceremony to stand up new Force Support Squadron today

Lt. Col. Kathryn Pfeifer

Lt. Col. Kathryn Pfeifer

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- When it comes to people programs, community support and quality of life, there is now one organization on base to handle it all -- the 123rd Force Support Squadron.

The new unit, which will be formally activated today during a 2:30 p.m. ceremony in the Base Annex, is the result of an ongoing Air Force-wide merger of mission support and services squadrons. The revised structure will help streamline processes, maximize customer service and cut costs associated with maintaining separate organizations, said Lt. Col. Kathryn Pfeifer, 123rd FSS commander.

"Because we're a leaner force, we need to focus on getting our people and organizations to operate at maximum efficiency," Colonel Pfeifer said. "This reorganization puts our manpower, personnel and services capabilities under one leadership 'hat,' which reduces overhead and gives our people the flexibility to be more responsive to customers' needs."

The new FSS includes four flights: force development, manpower and personnel, Airmen and family services, and sustainment services.

The structure combines similar functional areas that already work closely together, Colonel Pfeifer said. For example, the sustainment services flight contains the food operations, fitness and wellness, and lodging branches.

"This is basically a behind-the-scenes change and should appear transparent to most Airmen here at the Kentucky Air Guard," Colonel Pfeifer said.

"If someone needs to go get an ID card, that person will still go to the same location they're familiar with today. What we'll have, however, is a more effective force structure in place to better support our Airmen in the long run."

To make sure the Air Force wouldn't "break anything" by merging the mission support and services, six Air Force bases across six commands were selected early last year to test the new squadron model, officials said.

The test bases -- Edwards, Eielson, F.E. Warren, Grand Forks, Laughlin and Minot -- helped establish where specific responsibilities and processes should be placed within the organizational structure and how they should be set up.

"The end-of-test reports from the test sites indicate that this merger has not been without its challenges," Colonel Pfeifer said. "They had to re-establish lines of communication, move some people around and overcome cultural differences between the functions. But, even with the difficulties, we're already seeing the benefits of combining these assets."

Colonel Pfeifer cited the new force development flight as an example of positive changes coming.

"The new force development flight commander is responsible for all education, training, professional development and professional military education," she said. "It's advantageous for the wing to have one person overseeing and integrating the learning opportunities for the installation."

The merger also is advantageous for the careers of future force support officers and civilians.

"This reorganization opens up career opportunities that we haven't had before," Colonel Pfeifer said. "With our training plan in place, our people will be able to gain valuable experience across different functional areas.

"The bottom-line is that there is now a new name at the Kentucky Air Guard -- the 123rd Force Support Squadron -- in place of what once were the 123rd Mission Support and 123rd Services Flights.

"One thing will not change: The dedicated people of this newly merged organization will continue doing their best to support commanders and provide first-class support to their customers."

Colonel Pfeifer comes to the job with a background in missile maintenance and civil engineering. She earned her commission through Air Force ROTC in 1988 and joined the Kentucky Air National Guard in 2000 after serving 10 years on active duty.

In 2003, she was mobilized in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and spent a tour of duty at Camp Sather, Baghdad, Iraq, supporting civil engineer operations. Prior to assuming her current position, Colonel Pfeifer served as inspector general for the Kentucky Air National Guard.