SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --
Major Melissa Riester, 605th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida, was recently recognized as an outstanding performer by Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein, while deployed to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, as part of Task Force Southeast (TF-SE), which is the whole-of-government approach to the Department of Defense’s (DoD) response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Major Riester was recognized for the momentum gained with lessons learned (LL), which are a critical means of absorbing the experiences and observations—the good, the bad, and the ugly…not only the lessons but the best practices of all these “firsts”—to capitalize on the strengths already in place and improve future capability.
She was invited to be on the TF-SE lessons learned team based on her previous experience at Air Force Lessons Learned (AFLL), and embraced the opportunity. The TF-SE provides defense support of civil authorities to FEMA Regions III and IV, which includes 13 states from Pennsylvania to Florida, and their role, as the TF-SE HQ, is to provide command and control (C2) of the Title 10 forces employed to provide the much-needed relief to state health care systems on the front lines.
There have been a lot of real-world operational firsts for the 9th Air Force, including standing up the Joint Task Force (JTF) and responding to a pandemic. For Major Riester’s part, she collects LL observations from across the staff and conducting interviews with key leaders. Her observations have been shared with U.S. Army North Command (ARNORTH)--some of which were shared across all task forces immediately, meaning the impact on not only future operations, but current and near-future ops-- Air Force Northern Command (AFNORTH), and even AFLL.
“Being a part of TF-SE is about saving lives and preventing human suffering…and we are doing that by providing that military manpower to the state and local authorities to help combat COVID-19,” noted Major Melissa Riester, assistant director of operations of the 605th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida. “General Goldfein has said that ‘mission success…depend[s] on our ability to adapt and overcome the challenges we’ll face—and defeat—together!’ Helping this organization do exactly that through lessons learned has been very rewarding.”
“Melissa was critical to the squadron’s initial response to the pandemic before volunteering to deploy to support the task force,” said Lt. Col. Carly Sims, commander of the 605 TES. “We are very proud of her contribution to the lessons learned team and its impact on the whole-of-government effort.”