JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – As he prepares to leave the position he’s held since July 2019, the command chief master sergeant at the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center reflected on the role he said he was meant to take on.
"I tell folks that I was excited to get to be the command chief at IMSC, because I have a mission support background," said Chief Master Sgt. Edwin Ludwigsen, a career logistician, on the eve of heading to his follow-on assignment in September to become chief of the Chief’s Group in the Air Force Senior Leader Management Office at the Pentagon.
"We've been lucky these last two years to have Chief Ludwigsen on the team,” said AFIMSC Commander Maj. Gen. Tom Wilcox. “He's our top enlisted leader and my wingman. Every single day, he is keeping me straight. We are absolutely going to miss this teammate as he moves on to his next assignment."
Ludwigsen oversaw the health, welfare and professional development of about 3,900 Total Force personnel and helped guide an intermediate-level headquarters responsible for providing installation and mission support capabilities for 78 Air Force and Space Force installations with an annual budget of $10 billion.
"First and foremost, taking care of Airmen and families is the most important thing we do to increase lethality and readiness," he said in describing AFIMSC’s operations. "The second thing, I would say, is infrastructure. You look at what we do to not just build but sustain the Air Force and Space Force power projection platform – that’s lethality and readiness. That's what we bring to the fight each and every day."
For Ludwigsen, navigating COVID-19 will always be a milestone in his time at AFIMSC.
"I'll never forget packing up my things and going to work from home. I'll never forget that day in 2020 when we got the stay-at-home order at around lunchtime,” he said. “I'm packing up my computer and I'm going home to try and figure out how to do this from the house. That pandemic completely reshaped how we had to do business. How remarkable it was to watch our professionals meet that challenge and never skip a beat. We never stopped and in many ways we got busier."
During his tenure, the chief was heavily involved in several significant quality-of-life programs including officer and enlisted manpower studies, improvements in privatized housing and child development centers, and the Air Force’s new Office of the Future initiative.
"I honestly do not believe that there is a mission support challenge that IMSC cannot take care of," Ludwigsen said.
Leading the Air Force in what post-pandemic flexible office space can look like, AFIMSC will establish a new model for a telework and onsite work space balance to optimize resources, maintain connectedness and quality of life, and improve mission effectiveness.
"I am proud of where we are going with respect to the Office of the Future,” the chief said. “COVID-19 challenged us, and our Airmen responded. Who better than the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center to set the standard for the Air Force and the DOD going forward for what right looks like for office space? We are in the process of redesigning our facilities to reduce the amount of infrastructure and saving money. We're redefining what the office of the future looks like, and we're doing that right here at AFIMSC."
Ludwigsen said AFIMSC could not deliver on its mission to deliver globally integrated installation and mission support across the enterprise without its Airmen.
“The Air Force cannot operate without mission support Airmen,” he said. “Without fuel, pilots are pedestrians. Without AFIMSC, our organizations are not able to execute.
"The most important Airman is the one that you need right now. If I'm out-processing, the most important Airman I need is over in the (military personnel flight) so I can out-processed. If I'm hungry and I need a meal, the most important Airman is the one in the dining facility getting ready to serve me food. That's what our Airmen do.”
To the AFIMSC Airmen with whom Ludwigsen served, he leaves these words of advice.
"Keep in mind that, with every position and every job that you're in, you don't always see the value in it while you're doing it," he said. “It's very important that you give it your best, to execute at the highest level you can. Trust me, you're learning something from it that you will take away and apply somewhere else in your life and in your career.
“That is invaluable, and in time, it will reshape the way you lead and the way you take care of your Airmen and their families. Your perspective will change – and that's growth. Never lose sight of that."