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Brigadier General Canlas and Chief Master Sergeant Pelletier Discuss the Future of the 618th Air Operations Center

By MS. BRITTANY OLSON, Staff Writer

The mission and vision of the 618th Air Operations Center (AOC), also known as the Tanker Airlift Control Center (TACC) located at Scott AFB, IL is to plan, task, execute, and assess global air mobility operations and provide multi-domain command and control of mobility forces in a contested environment.

Leading the 618 AOC into the future is Brigadier General Jimmy R. Canlas, who was promoted from Vice Commander to Commander of the 618 AOC in January of 2019. Canlas is a decorated pilot and has flown 4,400 hours in the C-21A, KC-135R and C-17A. Prior to his assignment with the 618 AOC, he commanded an airlift squadron, an expeditionary group, and an airlift wing, and served with the United Nations Command in Korea and the U.S. European Command in Germany.

“Plan, task, execute and assess are the four core functions we accomplish here. We plan the sorties, we allocate the iron, and we execute the missions. Then we review and analyze how we did. Through the four steps of that process we gauge our progress to ensure the mission is getting done efficiently and effectively. This allows us to verify that we are flexible enough to respond to changing conditions; that we are agile enough to change any processes when needed; that the mission moves on time, is effective, and if called upon, that we can be more lethal in times of contingent operations,” explains Canlas.

The AOC was established to centralize command and control operations for worldwide airlift, combat delivery, air refueling and aeromedical evacuation, which were formerly executed by a multitude of different Air Force units and airlift divisions. For the last 27 years, the 618 AOC has played a paramount role in our country’s global military presence and unrivaled operational capabilities.

AMC sustains 42 pre-established, en-route refueling and airlift locations around the globe. The 618 AOC is responsible for ensuring efficient channel system performance of the 42 en-route locations to support all six geographic, and four functional unified combatant commands. The unit’s 700 personnel consist of active duty, Reserve, Air National Guard, civilians and contractors united by an innate desire to achieve operational excellence and provide world-class services and products that yield the highest degree of satisfaction from customers. Team members stand ready 24/7, 365 days a year to provide agile support and global air command and control for Mobility Air Forces. They plan, task, execute and assess approximately 200 contingency and distribution missions each day and direct a fleet of 1,100 mobility aircraft. In 2018 alone, the 618 AOC ensured delivery of an estimated 214 million pounds of fuel to 29,000 receivers.

Canlas’ leadership philosophy includes being proactive in Airman development as it will provide the foundation for creating a more agile, lethal and resilient force prepared for any operational challenge. As the saying goes, a team is only as strong as its weakest member and Canlas is a firm believer that no mission is too complex for the Airmen of the 618 AOC, as long as they are equipped with the tools, resources and training required to accomplish the mission.

Critical focus areas for Canlas’ team include workplace safety and developing a cohesive, resilient, and innovative workforce that adapts to change. To satisfy the operational demands of the DoD in the 21st century and reach the next tier of performance excellence, his team recognizes the importance of a workplace culture that welcomes out-of-the-box thinking and presents opportunities for improved efficiency and new solution sets.

A recent improvement in safety implemented by the 618 AOC was the creation of the Chief of Safety position held by Ms. Jennifer Yates. “This was a position we never had in the AOC in its 27 years of existence. Now we have a way to pull in different reports and programs and essentially synthesize it into a way that creates a bigger safety picture and impact for the Mobility Air Forces,” stated Canlas.

Another crucial change recently occurred in May of 2018 with the establishment of the 618 AOC’s very own 618th Air Communications Squadron (ACOMS). “That is a big win for us. What does that mean? It means we have a group of dedicated professionals looking after the systems and processes from a technology perspective from within the Air Operations Center. We are no longer reliant on the base communications squadron. Our visibility and situational awareness in the cyber environment increase exponentially as the 618 ACOMS continues to grow and develop,” affirms Canlas.

Canlas and Chief Master Sergeant Michael J. Pelletier, Superintendent of the 618 AOC, are excited and optimistic for the unit’s future. The 618 AOC is planning to relocate to a brand-new building by 2025. While Canlas and Pelletier anticipate the change to present some obstacles, they also believe it will offer opportunities to implement new technologies, and allocate time, space, and resources towards testing revolutionary ideas and processes that will optimize operational efficiency, long-term.

Canlas and Pelletier encourage personnel to facilitate change within the Air Force by collaborating with team members and taking ownership in building the future of the 618 AOC. “We have new Airmen that are extremely educated and technologically savvy. I would encourage every Airman to challenge themselves each day. Learn what the person in another cubicle or office does, think about your history and your legacy, what got you here. Then you can work together to build a brand-new future. It is exciting that we are changing gears in our service and we are not pointing fingers based on each other’s generational differences. We are working together to get ourselves to a new level of expertise and efficiency. It is exciting to be part of that,” explains Pelletier.

While planning for the future, the 618 AOC is a vital element in elevating the level of expertise and efficiency across the force. Canlas and Pelletier do not want personnel to lose sight of their impact on the world and all the good that stems from their personal contributions and sacrifices made on a daily basis. Most recently, the 618 AOC executed several missions in which C-17s transported humanitarian aid cargo to Columbia for the citizens of Venezuela, during the country’s political crisis.

“I remind them constantly to go home and watch the news to see events happening around the world and realize that each day they are making those scenarios possible. It is amazing work and what they do each and every day has impact on the United States, Department of Defense, and the world as a whole,” said Pelletier.