Having fun? Blame the 10th Force Support Squadron

  • Published
  • By Don Branum
  • Academy Spirit staff writer
If you're having a good time on base, blame the men and women of the 10th Force Support Squadron, because chances are they had something to do with it.

The 10th FSS runs recreational activities that range from bowling and golf to whitewater rafting in the Colorado Rockies, but those are just one small part of its overall mission, said Lou Van De Mark, the squadron's director and a career force support specialist with more than 30 years of civilian and military experience.

The squadron's mission is to take care of Airmen and their families so they can take care of the mission, Van De Mark said.

"We're the force enabler for the Air Force's number one weapon system: our Airmen," he said. "It's cradle-to-grave, from the child development centers to mortuary affairs."

The 10th FSS comprises six flights, making it one of the largest and most diverse force support squadrons in the Air Force, Van De Mark said. Those flights take care of military and civilian personnel, force development, community services, and sustainment services, Airman and family services, cadet support and more.

The cadet mission in particular is unique to the Air Force Academy, Van De Mark said. That flight oversees yearbook production and the Academy's radio station, KAFA, as well as food and nutrition services at Mitchell Hall and cadet activities at Arnold Hall.

"They serve about 12,000 meals a day, 347 days a year," Van De Mark said. That works out to more than 4.1 million meals a year. Lined up one foot apart, those meals would stretch about 770 miles, from Colorado Springs to the outskirts of Phoenix.

Furloughs due to sequestration and the October government shutdown affected that mission and many others in the squadron, Van De Mark said. However, he added, he believes they have come through the troubles even stronger.

"Civilian and military Airmen have demonstrated once again their value to the Air Force mission through their resilience, teamwork and commitment," he said. "They've exhibited why the Air Force needs all Airmen."

Many of the civilian employees he talked to were concerned less about how sequestration and the shutdown would affect them personally than about how it would affect the 10th FSS mission, Van De Mark said.

"They'll tell you, 'We've got to take care of our cadets,'" he said. "We have a dedicated group of people who work here day in and day out. I've never seen a group of professionals better equipped, more professional and more proficient than this group anywhere in the world, and I've been from Turkey to South Korea, from Florida to Alaska."
Van De Mark and his deputy, Maj. Sherry Graham, are fiercely proud of the 700-plus men and women who make up the 10th FSS -- almost to the point of bursting. They take time regularly talk with people in the Falcon Club, Rampart Lodge, Mitchell Hall, at Outdoor Recreation. They know their people's names, their jobs and their stories.

"They are the catalysts. They are my rock stars. They are the people who make it happen," Van De Mark said.