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AFRL virtual town hall addresses COVID-19, U.S. Space Force, Air Force S&T Strategy

Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, AFRL Commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Kennon Arnold, AFRL Command Chief, addressed questions during an AFRL virtual town hall event streamed live on AFRL’s Facebook page Aug. 21. During the event, Pringle announced her top three priorities as commander: to accelerate the AF S&T Strategy, to support the U.S. Space Force as one AFRL and to lead the best AFRL Team. (Courtesy photo)

Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, AFRL Commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Kennon Arnold, AFRL Command Chief, addressed questions during an AFRL virtual town hall event streamed live on AFRL’s Facebook page Aug. 21. During the event, Pringle announced her top three priorities as commander: to accelerate the AF S&T Strategy, to support the U.S. Space Force as one AFRL and to lead the best AFRL Team. (Courtesy photo)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – The coronavirus pandemic, the United States Space Force and the Air Force Science and Technology Strategy were among the many topics covered during a virtual town hall, Aug. 21.

Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, AFRL Commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Kennon Arnold, AFRL Command Chief, addressed questions during the event streamed live on AFRL’s Facebook page. Pringle also announced her top three priorities as commander: to accelerate the AF S&T Strategy, to support the U.S. Space Force as one AFRL and to lead the best AFRL Team.

During opening remarks, she discussed the challenges presented by this pandemic and said she’s “been really impressed by how the AFRL workforce has approached it with ingenuity and flexibility . . . figuring out new ways of getting the job done.” She noted that AFRL will “come out of this [situation] stronger” than ever.

Pringle spoke of the lab’s “great mission of leading science, technology and innovation for the warfighter” and thanked viewers for “everything that all of you do to make this mission happen.”

The event began with a conversation about AFRL’s contributions to COVID-19 relief efforts. Pringle specifically mentioned two outstanding teams who are leading the Department of Defense:  the Defense Production Act Title III team, for their work rapidly finalizing contracts to boost the nation’s industrial capability to produce masks and the Epidemiology Lab team for collecting and assessing vast numbers of samples.

Chief Arnold cited new flexible work initiatives that will allow employees to adjust their schedules, as one way that AFRL is supporting its workforce and alleviating some of the stress introduced by the start of the new school year.

“Our people are the most important resource that we have, and so we need to make sure that we are allowing them to do their work, but also take care of home life and family,” Arnold said.

In continuing with the theme of health and well-being, Pringle encouraged viewers to say something if coworkers fail to wear face masks in the office to maintain the “safest, healthiest work environment.” AFRL supervisors “will take care of business because taking care of you is what we are here to do,” she said.

Pringle revealed that she is “most proud of how AFRL has thrived amid COVID-19, doing business in new ways and using collaborative technologies to get the job done.”

As the conversation turned to the standup of the U.S. Space Force, Pringle asserted that AFRL will not split. She explained that one lab will now support two services in what she calls a “phenomenal opportunity” where all of AFRL plays a role, not just the Space Vehicles Directorate.

“Every single one of us should be thinking about how we can support our newest sister service,” she said.

Pringle discussed efforts to identify which elements transition to the U.S. Space Force, but said that regardless, this seamless transfer won’t impact AFRL’s mission or its daily operations. She explained that the U.S. Space Force understands the value of having one AFRL.

“We have so many great capabilities and concepts in research ongoing throughout the lab that it would really be a disadvantage to any service if we broke off part of it,” said Pringle. “The goodness is in us being altogether working on these innovative solutions.”

Since the U.S. Space Force will have its own budget and priorities. Pringle will routinely engage with other leaders to discuss S&T needs. She notes that, “the lab is used to having our science and technology meet the priorities of the warfighter, and this [domain] is just another example.”

Pringle also discussed how AFRL is implementing the AF S&T Strategy including WARTECH, an event in which warfighter and technologists focus on transformational capabilities and decide which programs are the best candidates to achieve Vanguard status.

She characterized Vanguards as high-priority initiatives or “all-in efforts” led by a partnership between scientists, engineers and Program Executive Offices. She explains that these groups join forces to develop schedules and work closely with warfighters to deliver advanced capabilities on a very aggressive timeline.

In describing the working relationship that supports the Vanguard process, she explained that AFRL and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center make decisions together as an integrated team, which ultimately helps “bring the science and technology closer to the acquisition” and vice versa.

After welcoming AFWERX as the newest member, to the AFRL family and discussing responsible behavior on social media, Pringle touched on the importance of embodying the core values of integrity, service and excellence in all that we do.

“We must hold ourselves to a higher standard because we are serving our nation,” she said.

Chief Arnold agreed, saying that while social media offers numerous benefits, we must abide by certain rules since we work for the Department of Defense. Furthermore, our “actions and words represent the Air Force and the Space Force now as well.”

“We are so lucky to have this opportunity” to lead and serve our nation, said Pringle. “Let’s make the most of it; not sully it.”

Following a brief discussion on the importance of professionalism, the topic shifted to diversity and inclusion.

Pringle adamantly stated, “racism, discrimination and hostile toxic work environments will not be tolerated.” She expressed her commitment to “take the steps necessary to bring down barriers and allow everybody to work at their best possible capacity She expressed that having difficult conversations on the topic will continue within AFRL.

Adding to Pringle’s sentiments, Arnold addressed the importance of treating everyone equally and appreciating what each individual brings to the organization.

“Our people are why we exist,” he said, emphasizing the fact that “diversity is key to AFRL’s ingenuity and innovativeness.”

Pringle concurred saying that we have “so much going at AFRL… so many wonderful things to accomplish. Let’s find a way to team together so that everybody has that same amazing experience that we know is possible.”

The town hall Q & A session continued with a discussion on resiliency and continuous improvement.

“We’ve got a world-class team here, and I hope that you won’t hesitate to let us know how we can make AFRL better,” Pringle said.

“We want you to be able to adapt and overcome,” said Arnold. “To strive for excellence, be at your best, and be happy to work for AFRL.” Arnold ended his remarks by encouraging viewers to share ideas that can make our workplace even better.

The event concluded with both leaders reiterating the importance of looking out for one another and building relationships across the Air Force.

“I am so excited to be part of this team,” said Pringle. She concluded the town hall by thanking the AFRL workforce and expressing her appreciation for “each and every” team member.

To view the full-length video of the town hall, visit AFRL’s Facebook page.

The full transcript of the event is also available at AFResearchLab.com.