Mission, people rank as top priorities of new 350 ELSG commander

  • Published
  • By Monica D. Morales
  • 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
When needing to meet a challenge head on, Col. Bill Cooley heeds the words of General of the Army George C. Marshall, who said, "fix the problem, not the blame." Colonel Cooley, the newest commander of the 350th Electronic Systems Group, in fact, considers that advice central to his leadership approach.

"As I've worked through challenges in the past, I've reflected on this principal and shared it with my staff as a way to overcome problems," Colonel Cooley said. "Taking this approach usually helps to solve a conflict and move forward rather than spend time focusing on negative, non-productive issues."

In his new post as 350 ELSG commander, Colonel Cooley is responsible for the development, testing, fielding and sustainment of 19 Air and Space Operations Center (AOC) sites worldwide, more than 100 Theater Battle Management Core System force-level locations, more than 100 TBMCS unit-level sites, as well as a variety of Foreign Military Sales programs. The 290-member team is located at Hanscom, Langley AFB, Va., Washington, D.C., Panama City, Fla., and Eskan Village, Saudi Arabia.

"This is an exciting opportunity to be leading this group," Colonel Cooley said. "Command is an opportunity most officers seek, and I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to lead this terrific group."

Colonel Cooley said his focus is simple - mission and people.

"Our acquisition job of keeping pace with computer technology while meeting all the congressional and Pentagon procurement rules is extremely challenging," he said. "Success demands that leaders pay attention to both. All of that happens because of the hard working, dedicated people in the group."

Among the top challenges of the group will be to implement key cost saving initiatives.

"Programmatically, we're trying to realize savings and leverage the investments in a lot of different software programs and applications," the colonel said. "That's the vision of ESC articulated by Gen. Bowlds, and we're working to make that challenge a reality."

Equally important, Col. Cooley said, is ensuring that the individuals "who make it all happen" are recognized for their contributions and given opportunities to grow and achieve personal goals.

"From a leadership standpoint, I want to maintain the outstanding trend and leadership previously put in place," he said. "This is a great team, and it's my hope to take it to the next level in terms of programs, group camaraderie and recognition."

Prior to commanding the 350 ELSG, Col. Cooley worked as the director of the Air Force Distributed Common Ground System Division in the 950th Electronic Systems Group.

But it's his previous experience participating in exercises for NATO and the U.S. forces in Europe that he says have best prepared him for taking on the job of leading this particular group. That experience, in part, required supporting exercises for USAFE and the AOC at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

"For that reason, I'm familiar with some of the operational challenges of the AOC, and the system as a whole," he said. 

Additionally, a prior assignment at the Pentagon on the Air Staff provided him with valuable insight into the requirements of high-level decision making.

"One of the lessons learned during my time on Air Staff is that for critical decisions involving national security and taxpayer dollars, there is no margin for error," Colonel Cooley said. "The stakes are very high, and I developed an appreciation for how important staff and acquisition organizations like ESC are in making those choices."

And though the new job required a shift in offices and job duties, Colonel Cooley said that, on a personal note, the prospect of his new post also brought with it the welcomed opportunity to remain at Hanscom a bit longer.

"I've been here about a year and the opportunity to stay at Hanscom, keep my family here another couple of years and do the work of ESC is an added benefit."