WASHINGTON, D.C. --
During a ceremony hosted by the Royal Air Force Museum American Foundation (RAFMAF), Lt. Col. T. Gwyddon Owen, 37th Intelligence Squadron commander, was awarded the 2018 'Sword of Honour', Oct. 11.
According to the RAFMAF, the award is presented to a Royal Air Force (RAF) and U.S. Air Force (USAF) Exchange Officer each year whose contributions have most reflected the values and honor the Foundation and veterans share: service, excellence, integrity and courage.
Owen, a cyberspace operations officer, began working as a military advisor with the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MOD), Defence Science and Technology Laboratories (DSTL) in May 2016, as part of the Military Personnel Exchange Program (MPEP) for Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
“Each year the USAF and RAF select a member who has made the largest contribution to relationships between the two nations,” said Owen. “While MPEP traditionally assigns pilots to the program, I was brought on to advise the MOD on cyber threats and capabilities.”
During his time with the exchange program, Owen played a direct role in supporting in U.K. joint readiness by helping to develop a multinational mission assurance team. The team assessed and identified solutions to protect air, land and naval military equipment from cyber-attacks.
“As a military advisor for DSTL, I represented the end user in a largely civilian organization,” said Owen. “I helped the U.K. develop capabilities that have significant implications for how the U.S., U.K. and other allies will engage in the future; not just in the digital domain, but in all domains.”
Owen and his team identified threats to and fixes for national-level intelligence capabilities, Ministry of Defence logistics, multinational airpower platforms and fleet defense systems. Collectively, these represent more than $7.1 trillion dollars of MOD, Department of Defense and allied capabilities that are now substantially more protected.
His work in design, development and testing of next-generation MOD capabilities was recognized during the ceremony. These systems enable previously impossible missions to take place in some of the most dangerous places in the world. These capabilities will cut certain Special Operations missions from weeks to hours, substantially lowering their risk and further increasing their effectiveness. They also boost naval assets’ effective combat range by more than 100 kilometers for a 10 percent improvement with no modification to the vessels.
Additionally, Owen worked with the MOD’s acquisition organization to ensure it was asking the right questions before contracting new capabilities or equipment.
Owen went on to explain that the U.K. assesses risk and brings in subject matter experts to discuss potential platform/weapon system vulnerabilities before final selection of a contract.
“I provided impartial advice on what the contract should entail and what ‘right’ looked like,” said Owen. “But contract negotiations and the final decisions were entirely up the MOD.”
Owen added, the MOD being smaller in numbers compared to the DOD, makes great effort to utilize resources efficiently.
“The perspective from the eyes of a foreign service is so different,” said Owen. “Getting the experience to see things from their side has helped change my current interactions as a commander that I have with our partners; it was a phenomenal experience.”
He went on to explain that observing how the MOD applies talent management, prioritizes resources, allows employees to know how they are making an impact, explaining the end state and letting personnel make it happen, is something he translates into his current command position.
When it comes to the exchange program, Owen is an advocate for any Airman, officer and enlisted, to learn how to apply for developmental duties through the Air Force Personnel Center website
“Professionally, the interaction I had with our partners was phenomenal,” said Owen. “On a personal level, it was a life-changing experience and my family will be positively impacted for a lifetime.”