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AFIMSC builds culture of family, fun

AFIMSC Detachment 4 virtual chat

Members of the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Detachment 4 team at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, connect during a virtual coffee chat Oct. 2, 2020. During the COVID pandemic, the detachment is holding quarterly virtual chats, bringing active-duty military, civilians and family members together for an informal discussion, games and prizes. (Courtesy photo)

Trunk or Treat group photo

Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center teammates pose for a group photo during the AFIMSC Fall Fest trunk or treat event in San Antonio Oct. 30. Quarterly family and fun events, with both in-person and virtual events, are designed to unite the worldwide AFIMSC team while improving morale and resilience. (Courtesy photo)

AFIMSC Spirit Olympics photo

A face painting booth was among activities offered for families during the inaugural AFIMSC Spirit Olympics March 6, 2020, in San Antonio. To instill a culture that embraces family and fun, AFIMSC built goals into its strategic plan aimed at improving morale, resilience and unity, and made “Family & Fun” one of its organizational values. (U.S. Air Force photo by Shannon Carabajal)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – Strong families and a connected workforce. That’s what Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center senior leaders believe is paramount for mission success.

“We’re spread across 78 installations, two services and eight major commands. We’re there to enhance lethality and readiness, and support Airmen and families,” said AFIMSC Commander Maj. Gen. Tom Wilcox. “It’s important to our mission, in order to succeed, to have a family atmosphere and take care of each other. We have to have fun in the job we do every day.”

To instill a culture that embraces family and fun, earlier this year the center built goals into its strategic plan aimed at improving morale, resilience and unity, and made “Family & Fun” one of its organizational values.

Chief Master Sgt. Edwin Ludwigsen, AFIMSC command chief master sergeant, is leading the team charged with identifying and accomplishing measurable objectives designed to achieve those goals. They include improving connectedness, family support and employee satisfaction.

“A strong team starts with strong, trusting relationships. This is one of the primary reasons why focusing on strengthening connectedness across the enterprise is so important,” Ludwigsen said. 

Since forming, the team has made many strides toward accomplishing their goals and objectives.

“I’m so proud of our progress over the last year,” the chief said.

That progress includes family and professional development events sponsored by the IMSC Round Table booster club; personal and professional development opportunities for teammates and families through the iMentor program; and an increased focus on the AFIMSC Key Spouse program and quarterly deployed family events.

“These events have helped instill the feeling of one Center while everyone is stationed throughout the globe,” said Nicole Wilcox, a key spouse and family member at AFIMSC Detachment 4, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. “(Organizers) have used several platforms, encouraging everyone to connect, interact and have fun while doing it.” 

When the COVID pandemic forced people to adjust the way they work and communicate, the chief said AFIMSC quickly adjusted to keep Family & Fun a priority. 

“Even in a COVID environment, our team continues sponsoring events – safely in person or virtually – that are available to everyone across the enterprise,” Ludwigsen said.

The iMentor program has offered a variety of virtual programs during the pandemic, from seminars aimed at helping people navigate financial challenges associated with COVID-19 to coaching and mentoring events in partnership with the AFIMSC Directorate of Personnel, said Chief Master Sgt. Deric Walker, a member of the goal team.

Walker said iMentor program managers are working with families and spouses to identify and offer more events and resources important to them. 

“We’ve leveraged all of that input to help us develop possible action plans – including multiple social media platforms, social groups, and ideas and best practices from similar centers – that get after areas where we can better connect and share information,” he said. “Through communication and connectedness, we’re in a position to do some great things for our teammates.”

The IMSC Round Table continued supporting teammates and families during the pandemic as well, adjusting their focus to virtual events or in-person activities adhering to social distancing and safety guidelines. The group’s agility allowed them to continue sponsoring quarterly family and fun events, fitness activities, blood drives and virtual professional development opportunities.

In Germany, Nicole Wilcox is also embracing the Family & Fun value. She’s keeping Detachment 4 families connected and cared for through virtual coffee chats, meals for newcomers and families of deployed Airmen, care packages, support for those in quarantine, and little gestures – such as Halloween goodie bags – to keeps spirits up during a difficult time.

“The quality of a person's work can be influenced by their home life. If their family is not healthy or taken care of, this can negatively impact their ability to concentrate in the office,” she said. “If their family is doing well, their mind can be free to focus on the mission.”

In addition to taking advantage of family and professional development events, Ludwigsen said a healthy work-life balance is a crucial part of the family and fun culture AFIMSC is working toward.

“This must be a priority for each of us and we must be disciplined and deliberate with our time,” he said. “A healthy work-life balance allows us to recharge our batteries.”

For people struggling to find a work-life balance and stay connected with their teammates amidst challenges related to virtual work, the chief encourages flexibility. He also recommends setting a schedule and finding a routine that works for the entire family. This should include time for fitness and breaks away from the computer.

“Sometimes you just need some space to think,” he explained.  

The chief also encourages people to reach out to coworkers to see how they’re doing.

“Don’t wait for a business reason to call. There’s nothing wrong with a virtual water cooler chat from time to time or just saying ‘hello.’ We have to continue to check in on each other,” he said.

“COVID-19 has changed our world and we’ve had to adjust, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop doing things important to us,” he said. I challenge everyone to think outside the box; let’s be creative and find new, safe ways to stay connected.”