Air Force taps uncommon officer

As a rule second lieutenants don't end up in charge of much of anything - especially projects visible to anyone higher than a major.

But the Air Force Standard Systems Group (SSG) tapped 2nd Lt. Chad Lynch to run its most visible event of the year: the annual Air Force Information Technology (AFIT) Conference. By all accounts Lynch carried off last month's conference with seasoned professionalism and aplomb not usually found in those who sport "butter bars" on their collars

.SSG selected Lynch for the assignment because he is not an ordinary second lieutenant he's a former enlisted man with a degree in information systems from the University of Maryland Overseas. Lynch is also as he says a man who "likes to be in the center of things."

"I like to manage things " he said. "I like high-profile jobs."

Before joining SSG Lynch already had ample opportunity to operate at the center of things. After attending the Defense Language School in Monterey Calif. where he studied Polish Lynch took an assignment to an Air Force unit at Mildenhall England.

Mildenhall didn't need any Polish-language experts but it did need enlisted men to fly on Advanced Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft as airborne controllers. Lynch grabbed the opportunity. He eventually racked up 300 hours of flight time in the AWACS including a stint in Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Storm as well as air operations over the Adriatic. During his Mildenhall tour Lynch also managed to fly as a crewman on a British Nimrod patrol plane and a British AWACS - diligently pursuing his college studies between flights.

After serving as an enlisted man Lynch received his bachelor's degree quickly followed by acceptance to the Air Force Officer Training School in Montgomery Ala. After graduating Lynch reported to SSG also in Montgomery just in time to receive the assignment as chairman of the 1996 AFIT conference. The job took 10 months of meticulous work he said.

Lynch now chief of SSG's Small Computer Technical Support Branch said he relished the conference assignment even "if I was the first second lieutenant ever to have the job." Lynch believed he put a positive mark on the organization of the conference which until this year was called the Air Force Small Computer Conference.

"This was the first year the registration process was fully automated " Lynch said. As a result he said "while other years there were lines out the door [of the Montgomery Convention Center] while people waited to register this year there were no lines." The 1996 AFIT conference Lynch added was also the first to provide attendees with the full conference proceedings on a CD-ROM.

The SSG leadership Lynch said constantly "gives me a chance to do things that an ordinary second lieutenant wouldn't get to do." He said this includes his new job which never before has been held by a second lieutenant. The SSG leadership is "very supportive " he said. "They're always giving me a chance to do things."

Off the job Lynch also seeks out opportunities. He's sponsoring a Moroccan air force officer assigned to SSG and continues to read European history - part of his penchant for political science. With his tour at SSG drawing to a close Lynch is looking forward to challenges in his next assignment. And he definitely wants to keep up the pace he already has set in his career he said.

"I want to go to a comm squadron " he said. "That's where the action is.... I like being in a place where I can handle a mixture of short-term and long-term projects."

Taking into account his prior service as an enlisted man Lynch figures he will retire as a major. And based upon his track record to date he probably will retire as something more than an ordinary run-of-the-mill major.

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