The IT unit in Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois has become more of an operational partner to the military than a traditional provider of IT support.
For one thing, the group now plays a prominent role in cyberdefense, with Col. Robert Lyman leading the charge. "We've focused on not just sustaining and becoming a help desk for a system, but also defending that system in cyberspace and, more importantly, the critical data that transits that system," says Lyman, 44, who became CIO in July 2013 after serving several global assignments in the Air Force over 22 years.
Not surprisingly, the details of those cyberdefense strategies are classified, but the role requires IT to build relationships with several agencies, including the U.S. Transportation Command and the Defense Information Systems Agency.
Lyman says the challenge in such ongoing partnerships is to institutionalize those relationships so they're not ad hoc and "personality dependent," he says.
"Personal relationships are helpful but, because military officers rotate around regularly, we want to make sure those operational relationships aren't dependent on the person who holds the chair tomorrow," Lyman says.
The military's penchant for rotating assignments also creates a unique challenge when it comes to retaining IT talent. Luckily, Lyman sits on the development team for military cyber professionals and civilian IT staffers, so he's in a position to help servicemen and servicewomen navigate their military IT assignments.
"Helping people understand what the opportunities are and how to take advantage of them — that mentorship is something I take very seriously," says Lyman. "It's one of the most rewarding parts of the job."