AF ISR trailblazer paved the way for agency's values

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jonathan Snowden
  • 566th Intelligence Squadron commander
August of this year marked the loss of a legend for the Air Force Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR, Agency, the parent organization of the 566th Intelligence Squadron.

Retired Maj. Gen. Doyle Larson passed away Aug. 13. He is revered by the Air Force ISR community for his leadership and continued commitment to excellence in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

He stood up the Air Force ISR Agency's predecessor, the Electronic Security Command, or ESC, where he helped build a strong sense of community, identity and esprit de corps.

While many throughout the Air Force lost their lives in defense of America's great ideals during the Cold War, ESC and its predecessor, the U.S. Air Force Security Service, certainly saw some of its best and brightest warriors give their lives during this period while conducting sensitive airborne operations for the Air Force and Department of Defense.

General Larson understood this sacrifice and did much to foster a shared understanding and appreciation for these fallen warriors through a continuing pride in our talents and hard work.

One of his keystone accomplishments was the creation of the Comfy Olympics in 1980, which created a competitive spirit of excellence by recognizing the most accomplished ISR warriors within ESC. 

The Comfy Olympics might not have been the first MAJCOM-wide competition, or even the first competition exclusively for enlisted warriors, but it is definitely the preeminent individual competition across the Air Force ISR community.

Throughout its 27 years, the program has continuously evolved and gone through several name changes. It is now called the Sensor Olympics. It has also expanded to nearly every enlisted career field within the Air Force ISR Agency, which is appropriate, as all career fields equally contribute toward the agency's vision of sustaining air, space and cyberspace ISR capabilities for the nation.

The Sensor Olympics participants begin their competition at the unit level where they are then narrowed down for a second round of competition within their groups and wings. From that round, 66 finalists out of more than 6,000 eligible participants from across the Air Force ISR Agency compete for the coveted Sensor Olympics Gold Medal.

Excellence, of course, means more than studying and taking a test. If these things were the only notable things about the winners, the Comfy and Sensor Olympics programs would have withered away shortly after their inceptions.

However, this competition reflects the great pride ESC and the Air Force ISR warriors have in their mission and the Air Force as a whole. Without this core value already in place, our ISR predecessors would not have been the contributor to our successful end to the Cold War.

But General Larson already knew this - that's why he was so successful and is held in such high regard by the warriors of the Air Force ISR Agency.