If your experience is anything like mine, the call from Directorate of Personnel-Air Force (DP-AF) that your Squadron (SQN) time was being replaced (forever in my case) with Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG) time was a bitter posting pill to swallow. Why was I being punished? So what if I’d bent a few bomb fins and stripped a few screws in my time? Surely there were worse Techos out there that should be in the crap-posting line well before me! This was my mindset until my second CASG tour, when the realisation that sustaining the ADF aircraft fleet with installed explosive ordnance was a pretty important gig and one that needed an experienced and committed individual in the chair, not some crusty old WOFF who just wanted to tell SQN warries all day.
The reality of how Aviators end up with a CASG posting is, of course, far from the cynical view that it is a punishment posting or a convenient spot to send underperformers. Despite what you may have heard, CASG is not a dumping ground for the broken and broken-hearted. Instead, it is an organisation that equips and sustains the ADF, effectively and efficiently delivering billions of dollars’ worth of capability through a highly skilled and committed ADF, APS and contractor workforce.
So why the angst when your posting to AIR1234, WHTEVR-SPO is released? For a lot of us, CASG is a complete unknown particularly in relation to the fun and favoured roles we love in flying SQNs. Sure, B-Shift on a wet winter’s night when everything turns to custard isn’t the best of times, but the majority of SQN life is filled with beer and skittles, and a CASG desk job just can’t compete with that—especially when you have no clue what that desk job really entails.
There’s a bit to cover in this here can-o-worms, so I’ll break it up over a few parts to keep the excitement high and TLDR lowish. To kick things off, Part I of this fun-filled adventure will rip the band-aid off the connection between CASG and Defence primarily at the SQN-level where most of us derive our CASG experience from.
Houston, we have an image problem
So, what does CASG do when looked at from the SQN perspective? EKO’s every other day? No B-Shifts or overtime? For the average punter, CASG seems to be a cruisy gig where they buy a few o-rings or aircraft, throw them over the fence to the SQNs, and randomly top up the spares cupboard to make it look like they’re supporting the flying program. CASG are here to help, but only between 10am and 3pm. If there’s an issue on Wednesday, CASG will sort it by Monday… of the following month. The reality of what CASG does to support SQNs is obviously far different from the biased description above, but where there’s smoke there’s fire and CASG seems to struggle with how it is perceived on the hangar floor. CASG has an image problem.
In simple terms, Defence is on the hook to protect our stuff and break thine enemies’ stuff when asked to by Government. Based on that, CASG exists solely to get stuff to protect and break stuff with. For the mathematicals out there, the relationship between CASG and Defence in the context of stuff can be described by the following:
A+S ≥ P+E
A: Acquisition; S: Sustainment; P: Preparedness; E: Employment
Utilising this formulae, we can calculate that CASG needs to acquire and sustain stuff in numbers greater than or equal to preparedness and employment requirements. ‘Tis but a simple equation, yeah? Unfortunately, things are a little more complex from both the supply and demand sides of the equation.
The beer and skittles that make SQNs an endless summer of fun are, of course, provided by CASG. The bumper sticker for the CASG Air Domain is ‘We Get Air Power Capability’—raison d'être to acquire it, sustain it, project manage it, asset manage it, enable it and understand it! And when it comes to beer and skittles, only the best will do. The beer needs to be delivered on time, at temperature and in enough quantity to ensure SQNs can deliver air and/or space power effects. Likewise, skittles must be available and consumable when and where required. As the beer and skittle end-user, SQN personnel are reliant on CASG to acquire and sustain adequate supplies, and woe betide the Integrated Logistics Support Manager (ILSM) when the beer is warm or there are no red skittles.
I would argue that for the most part, the main interaction that SQNs have with CASG is when the red skittles they reaaallllyyyyy need on Friday afternoon aren’t in the cupboard, and the base warehouse is telling them that the nearest ones are in Choiceland, Canada and won’t be available for a month of Sundays at the earliest. THANKS CASG—GET YOUR MATHS RIGHT! (A+S < P+E) Calling the ILSM in 3, 2, 1…
Sound familiar? If the above is a typical experience for many of us, its little wonder that when DP-AF come sniffing around for volunteers to fill a Tech Assessor role in Project AIR1234 WHTEVR-SPO, the most common reaction is to delete the email and run a mile in the opposite direction. CASG has an image problem and most Aviators don’t want any part of it if given the choice.
Addressing this conundrum requires a few irons in the fire; the first and foremost being a change in messaging from CASG towards the SQN level where most of the angst exists come posting time. Marketing the central role of CASG in delivering air and space power capabilities and effects is fundamental when it comes to getting the SQN’s best and brightest into the workforce. In a perfect world, our high-flying aviators would be lining up for their CASG tour instead of being dragged kicking and screaming to their AIR1234 WHTEVR- SPO cubicle. The operational and corporate experience that exists at the SQN level is a critical factor in CASG’s ability to deliver beer and skittles that are fit for purpose, and this means getting the right people onboard who can not only ensure the supply of red skittles on Friday, but also market the importance of their roles in the delivery of capability—turning those frowns upside down and promoting the true image that CASG is here to help, not hinder.
Which leads me to Part II – stay tuned!