375th CSPTS: Programing to perfection

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Solomon Cook
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Many have heard the adage, “Rome was not built in a day.” When thinking of the complexity of keeping such an entity together, one must think, “Rome was not sustained for a day.” These notions need to be true of all things built to last, and the same goes for sections and squadrons in the Air Force – such as the 375th Communications Support Squadron.

In the information age, sustainment is much more than brick and mortar facilities. The projection of lethality, efficiency, readiness, and cyber security require a digital environment that must be maintained to enable communication professionals to complete their missions.

Those who have grown up with computer technology may view a computer as something that just works. But, the inner workings of the machine are much more complex. All things done within a computer are accomplished by a litany of commands written in code or a “language.”

As with all language this takes time to learn and even more time to master.

“Like everybody, we have a technical school we go to that is about three months,” McClintock explained. “That [training] gives us a very basic understanding of programming. Coming here, we have [Career Development Courses] like everybody else, as well. We usually have about six months to get those done. But, the way we get people up to speed on how to do their job specifically is through pairing.”

Becoming a programmer is not something that happens overnight, it is something that is learned over time through trial and error. To ensure the expediency of learning, the 375th CSPTS has rules to follow for how they operate during their careers from beginner to expert.

“At no point should anybody on any team be working on any specific problem alone,” he continued. “You'll always be sitting next to somebody else. Whether that person is also experienced or new, every problem that we have is tackled by at least two people. That way there’s no one person knows everything – no loss of knowledge. That's the big way that we train people. It's hard to formally train someone to be a programmer. It's more of a creative exercise. You get better at it as you do it.”

Although the Air Force trains and utilizes some of the most knowledgeable and professional Airmen across the globe, their capabilities and understanding should rival and exceed that of commercial and industry equivalents. To advance the understanding of these core competencies of the career field, the squadron has developed and sustained a partnership with a San Antonio company.

“We partnered up with a platform provider called Platform One,” McClintock said. “Our agreement with them is we send two Airmen over to them on six month rotations to help them out with their work. In return, that gives us access to their environment to allow us to be able to actually put an application on an environment to get to the hands of a customer to show that it is useful. This allows higher leadership to see the benefit to the Air Force. That's been the biggest thing for us is having a place to put these applications.”

These environments McClintock explained are the locations in which applications are hosted. Partnering with Platform One augments and strengthens the number of applications that can be developed and worked on by an exponential amount at no added cost.

“There's a lot of things that go into getting an ‘Authority to Operate,’” he stated, further elaborating the process. “Those ATOs can take six to eight months to get. Platform One has what they call, a ‘continuous authority to operate’ where they focus more on the security and making sure that what's going on there is secure. That allows us to be able to put an application on their servers to be hosted. That's a huge benefit because now we don't have to worry about that piece of it. But, the big thing is we've got a limited resource with that. We can only host up to two applications at a time.”

In addition to this process and different way of thinking, the 375th CSPTS is also aware of where their Airmen have interests and innate skills. After they have become certified during their initial training, they are given some ownership of where they believe they will best serve within their section. The positions are project managers, designers and developers.

One such instance drove McClintock into his current position. He was working as a developer at the time, but after helping another section on a reoccurring basis in addition to his daily duties, he moved, McClintock explained.

“‘You know what, this is what I'm good at and I've been helping over there -- I think you guys are just moving over there,’” he recounted. “After a bit of convincing and some conversations, I was able to get on the platform team and that's where I've been ever since.”

This freer thinking mindset of position placement has raised the morale and job satisfaction of individuals in the squadron and better aligned their skill and knowledge based currency. As the professionals of the 375th CSPTS continue to provide and advance the needed and unique facet of Air Force infrastructure, they will continue to find answers to the questions that maintain air dominance through computing.

“At the end of the day, we improve processes, we take problems throughout the Air Force and we find digital solutions to them to make the average Airmen better equipped,” Drevon concluded. “We find ways of automating processes to give more time back to the Airmen to focus on the stuff that requires more hands-on when it comes to the mission.”