LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas—Gilbert Wheeler, 47th Medical Support Squadron information systems flight chief, was chosen by wing leadership to be the “XLer” of the week, for the week of Jan. 7, 2019, at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas.
The “XLer” award is given to those who consistently make outstanding contributions to their unit and the Laughlin mission.
As the information systems flight chief, Wheeler is in charge of all electronics in the clinic, like computers, switches, routers, printers and fax machines.
“If it’s an electronic device you log into, whether it’s a laptop or computer, printer or server, I’m in charge of it,” Wheeler said.
One issue Wheeler sees on a regular basis is network outages. He recently safeguarded operations by restoring access to 135 personal computers, allowing staff to maintain clinic operations. Because of his efforts, there were no patient care mishaps.
“In a location like ours, there are a lot of network outages and power outages and stuff like that,” Wheeler said. “One of the outages was during the most recent storm we had with the tornado warnings where the flightline was flooded.”
He was receiving warnings on his phone about how warm the server room was getting that morning as he drove to work. The last warning said it was 95 degrees as he pulled into the parking lot. He ran in and started shutting servers down. Then, looking down, he realized he was covered in water. Through hard work and lots of cleaning up, Wheeler had the equipment working and serviceable again.
Another common part of Wheeler’s job is updating and upgrading equipment. Wheeler crafted plans for eight of the clinics within the medical group and set up 20 new computers, setting them up to Air Force standard. He also ensured 22 staff members got the access they needed to accomplish their part in the mission.
“Every year the Air Force medical service sends us a certain number of computers printers to refresh, printers to refresh, and things like that,” Wheeler explained. “Usually it’s the oldest in the facilities are the first ones out. You also have to look at the patient care areas too because providers are the ones you want to have the best personal computers out there, so they don’t have delays in care.”
Wheeler was also behind the big Windows 10 merge for the 47th MDG, which was separate from the rest of the base’s Windows 10 merge. Wheeler imaged and issued 210 personal computers and reconfigured the medical systems capabilities for 141 personnel.
“The government said, ‘you will get these units in place by a certain date,’ so that drove a manning issue for us,” Wheeler described. “We reached out to people in the clinic who had security plus certifications and to the 47th Communications Squadron to help us get those 250 to 300 computers imaged with Windows 10. Personnel were accomplishing the same jobs as before, but under this new operating system, there are fewer security vulnerabilities.”
In addition to all the updates, upgrades, and maintaining the equipment and tending the daily tasks that pop up, Wheeler is the information systems flight chief his team and the clinic can rely on. Even with a 33 percent manning shortage, he and his team don’t let challenges bring them down.
“[Earning the ‘XLer’] was quite a shock, and I truly didn’t know it was going to happen,” Wheeler said. “I don’t need recognition, but it’s nice to be recognized.”
Wheeler stays busy at the 47th Medical Group, ensuring hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment remains up-to-date and available to help Laughlin medics care for patients, which earned him the right to be the “XLer” of the week.