Cyberspace Operations Directorate offers in-person team building event for deputy field commanders

by Cyberspace Operations Directorate

Patriot Shotgun 2021 Group Photo of Leaders

To achieve its mission, DISA has to prioritize close collaboration and information sharing at headquarters and at its field command offices. Leaders throughout the agency employ a variety of strategies to help the workforce operate as a team, and some get very creative. The agency's Cyberspace Operations Directorate executive, Joseph Wassel, is never at a loss when it comes to creative thinking and the Patriot Leadership and Team Building Training Series, which was launched in 2019.


The Cyber Operations workforce is home to 2,600 people located in eight countries and 13 U.S. states. He is facing a challenge familiar to many across the agency: the tyranny of distance.


The leadership series began in summer 2019 with Patriot Thunder and was held at one of DISA's alternate locations. Wassel took what could have been a run-of-the-mill leadership training and launched a dynamic professional development and leadership team building exercise designed for his headquarters-based staff.


The series now includes three additional trainings targeting his global team: Patriot Phoenix for chiefs; Patriot Shotgun for deputies and Patriot Eagle for commanders. According to Wassel, "Our customer is the warfighter, who just happens to be the best and most demanding customer in the world; and they receive their orders from senior leaders."


Recently, Wassel held the first Patriot Shotgun training at the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) on Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska at STRATCOMM's General Curtis E. LeMay Command and Control Facility, referred to as C2F.


The training began with a command brief that offered a historical overview of STRATCOM, from its origins and how the combatant command has changed over time to the vital role it plays today in deterring strategic attacks against the U.S. and its allies.


Attendees had the opportunity to tour the impressive 916,000-square-foot facility. C2F is a weapons system with 650 miles of IT cable that can stretch from Omaha to Dallas. It was designed to meet today's requirements and accommodate the unforeseen needs of future. The team also walked through parts of the building that enable STRATCOM to create a globally integrated picture for integrated operations around the world.


Dr. Annette Jordan, deputy for DISA’s U.S. Strategic Command Field Office, said Wassel’s Patriot series is taking leadership development and combatant command engagement to new heights within the agency.


“Patriot Shotgun focused on the deputies who are the “glue” between the field offices and field commands, DISA and the combatant commands at the technical and operational level,” said Jordan.

“We are in a daily battle to ensure operational requirements are met. The opportunity to bring our corporate knowledge together and have a face-to-face discussion with DISA’s Cyber Operations leadership about tactical and strategic topics important to supporting our COCOMs was unparalleled.”

Having the event take place inside the mission spaces of STRATCOM brought the magnitude of DISA’s mission to the forefront as the deputies met face-to-face with the STRATCOM deputy commander, the J6, J7 and the deputy director of the Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications Enterprise Center.

“The icing on the cake was an in-person mission briefing from the U.S. Strategic Command deputy J3 inside the USSTRATCOM Global Operations Center,” said Jordan.  “Mr. Wassel had a bird’s eye view from the USSTRATCOM commander’s chair surrounded by his field office/field command deputies, as Maj. Gen. John Nichols conveyed the significance of DISA’s services to the USSTRATCOM Nuclear Command and Control mission. All of this would not have had the same impact on the team of deputies had it been done virtually,” Jordan said.


"I respect your mission and the work you do," said Wassel, as the deputies prepared for the final part of their day of the training event. Wassel continued, "DISA is a quiet enabler helping people do their mission. We want to give confidence to the warfighter, to the combatant command, and to the president. When they make decisions they need the right information at the right time to make the right decision."


The session allowed for a crucial conversation about the many challenges deputies face, from cross-agency coordination to having input on which capabilities warfighters need.


Bruce Morgan, deputy commander of DISA Pacific, said what set the Patriot Shotgun event apart from other development events he’s attended was the fact that the target audience – the deputies – represent a continuity and corporate knowledge “layer” across the DISA Field Commands and Field Offices under Cyber Operations.


“This “layer” exercises a mix of operational and strategic perspectives in providing effective DISA support to all combatant commands based on prevailing mission partner requirements, said Morgan.


“The real value of an event like Patriot Shotgun is the opportunity to gather at an offsite location together for a teambuilding venue and participating in a shared experience - building trust across a globally deployed workforce,” he said adding, “the event offers a great chance to periodically re-baseline common best practices and processes across a team of diverse deputies and most of us were being exposed to a different mission set and learning something new at the same time.”


Being the global agency that it is, Morgan said, DISA is effective at accomplishing its missions despite working across multiple states, countries and time zones. But the Field Office/Command deputies appreciate the rare opportunity for face-to-face interaction.


Wassel, his headquarters’ team, along with DISA STRATCOM staff worked hard to make sure the event was a success and achieved the intended objectives.


But the high point of the training was a flight on the National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC) E-4B aircraft. The NAOC is an extension of the nuclear executive support complex of decision making and information sharing. The team had the opportunity to observe an NAOC mission in real time while Wassel highlighted DISA-enabled capabilities and helped the team see themselves in a NAOC mission and think about new solutions and better techniques, tactics and procedures.


Joining Wassel and the deputies at the training were DISA’s Dr. Serena Chan, Cyber Development Directorate executive, and Christopher Paczkowski, Infrastructure Directorate executive. Chan and Paczkowski are highly supportive of the training series and understand the benefits to the deputies and the mission.


“It was a great opportunity to meet the senior leaders in Cyber Operations who are a mainstay for the DISA Field Commands,” said Chan.  “Although we have many available collaboration tools to enable our ability to meet, the face-to-face meetings allowed for bonding and building relationships, both personally and professionally. It was invaluable to take the time out to spend with the deputies, to demonstrate a strong partnership between DISA’s Cyber Development, Cyber Operations, and Infrastructure Directorates. We are one team when it comes to the mission of connecting and protecting the warfighter’s communications.”

Paczkowski was grateful for the opportunity to participate in Patriot Shotgun.

It was a privilege to witness the cohesive collaboration between all of the field commands and offices,” he said. “My infrastructure organization has a critical partnership with this group, starting with requirement collection and culminating with the delivery and sustainment of an operational capability. This event provided me the opportunity to develop an even stronger relationship with the team. It was priceless.”

Published August 16, 2021