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Math and Munitions, the Business of the Military

How does a Keuka degree fit into daily military life?

Maddox '07, right, is sworn in as a USAF Captain.

Just ask U.S. Air Force Capt. Ryan Maddox ’07, who graduated with a B.A. in math and a B.S. in business management, and now serves as operations officer for the U.S. Air Force 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron, which includes four officers and 461 enlisted airmen at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany. Maddox is second-in-command to the squadron commander.

“I handle operations and she handles the personnel—the pats on the back and the kicks in the butt, so to speak,” he said. “We provide munitions support and we do maintenance. Let’s say after flying, a part gets damaged and needs repair. We repair it through metal fabrication.”

In addition, the squadron handles what Maddox calls “deep tissue maintenance,” such that after every 400 flight hours logged by a particular plane, it will spend from 7-20 days in the base hangar getting stripped down for  more intensive analysis or repairs.

Maddox supervises logistics, storage, supply chain management and more for Air Force munitions, like this bomb, at his base in Germany.

“As far as business is concerned, maintenance and munitions is pretty much like any other business. We have a product, a process, customers, logistics, and a supply chain. I market my product to my customers – other squadrons – so they get what they want and I’m able to supply it. It’s almost a direct correlation [to business].”

According to Maddox, the biggest challenge of his “business” is that the military is effectively not-for-profit, dependent on Congressional funding and restricted to the regulations and limits placed on it.

While Spangdahlem is a training base and not typically responsible for any forward operations, Maddox said some Air Force support missions were flown from Germany during the Libyan revolt when the nationals overthrew dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Maddox really put his math to use three years ago, when he was deployed to Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, as a second lieutenant and supervised 55 airmen providing  munitions for monthly operations, some of which were difficult to forecast, “Al Queda being reluctant”[to provide details], he said, describing how he used some “supply chain management techniques coupled with a little game theory.

“Basically, we had to do math to figure out what [munitions] we could keep on hand and what we could keep [in rotation on jets, or at supply points]. I equate it to a real-world application of those word problems: ‘If Train A and Train B leave their stations, 200 miles apart, at the same time and Train A is going 60 mph and Train B is going 40 mph, what time do they meet?’”

About a year after serving in Afghanistan, Maddox was promoted to first lieutenant, and tasked to work on “Angel Thunder ’12” the largest military training exercises in the world. Known in the Army as a “war game,” AT ’12 utilized 1,728 people from 18 countries, continuously moving troops across major portions of Arizona and New Mexico to practice what to do in combat, working with other countries, services and department agencies.

“When we deploy, it can sometimes become a bit cumbersome. So, we want to know how each [squad] operates and [what] equipment [they have] so regardless who goes down in the field, we can all strategize how to rescue them,” said Maddox.

His role was to coordinate where 31 visiting government “big wigs” including military colonels, generals, ambassadors and Congressional staffers, could safely observe “the play area” in order to consider increasing funding.

Pararescuemen and simulated survivors take cover as a HH-60 Pavehawk lands to extract survivors to be transported to the Casualty Collection Point, during a mass casualty scenario as part of exercise Angel Thunder.'12. (Photo Courtsey USAF)

“It was a question of how do we get these people to all these locations? It looked like kindergarten scribbles on the light board that we drew up; there were so many flight paths going on,” he recalled.

Ultimately, the exercise was a success, the funding was tripled, Maddox was promoted to captain and reported to Germany in March. This November he’ll mark five years in the Air Force. He credits his overall Keuka experience— including four Field Period internships and small class sizes where he could personally connect with professors—for developing a foundation he could draw from in his military career. Even extracurricular activities, such as serving as a resident assistant or competing in national expositions as a member of the former SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) team have served him well.

“I got a lot of leadership experience at Keuka and I don’t know that I’d have received that somewhere else,” Maddox said. “It was very maturing, so I went into the service as a 22-year old man in charge of 190-something people right off the bat. I had a lot to draw on when I got in [the military]. Though my career application of my education has not been literally translated, it has still proven more than valuable.”

In terms of his future, “the next big thing for me is I want to command a squadron – that would be about five years down the road; we’ll see,” Maddox said. After that, perhaps in 10-20 years, “I’d like to get out and develop my own business plan and where I want to go and what I want to do. I guess I‘ll see what God’s got in store for me.”

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