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Eielson first in PACAF inspected under new AF inspection system

Posted 9/19/2013   Updated 9/19/2013 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Kirsten Wicker
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

9/19/2013 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Eielson is the first installation in Pacific Air Forces to be inspected under the reinvented Air Force inspection system, during a readiness exercise and consolidated unit inspection, Sept. 9 to 20.

In 2010, the Air Force inspector general took steps to completely rearrange the Air Force's inspection system, which combines and integrates multiple programs. Major commands are beginning the transition in assigned wings and posturing for success.

The new system is part of a wing commander's toolkit to ensure the wing is properly organized, trained, equipped and supported to meet mission requirements at all times. The entire cycle is expected to run every 24 to 30 months, improving overall mission capabilities and putting the responsibility for training, readiness, capability and compliance on the wing-level leadership to accomplish.

"The elements of AFIS are two-fold," said Col. David G. Van der Veer, PACAF inspector general. "The Commander's Compliance Inspection Program puts the responsibility for compliance and readiness in the hands of the wing commander. The Unit Effectiveness Inspection is the element that allows the major command to validate and verify the wing commander's inspection program. The wing-level inspector general becomes the vehicle for the wing commander to inspect their wing and to put together exercises that ensure readiness."

As part of the program, the Air Force implemented the Management Internal Control Toolset. MICT is a digital data program that allows Airmen to review their checklists and identify areas of compliance or non-compliance in a virtual environment. Wing, group and squadron commanders can see the reports, as well as give MAJCOM inspectors a continuous picture of commanders' self-assessment and corrective actions.

"MICT is a tool first and foremost - it is not what the inspection is based on, but it is a medium for the self-assessment checklist that Headquarters Air Force or the MAJCOM submits as a supplement and also contains the wing instructions if needed to further supplement guidance," he said. "It gives wing leadership an opportunity to look into a program and see areas of non-compliance or see how their units are doing virtually."

The report the wing commander puts forward after review of MICT is called the Commander's Inspection Report. It's a wing commander's assessment of compliance within their wing. The focus for PACAF is to validate and verify the wing commander's inspection program is doing what it's designed to do, and report to the PACAF commander just how a particular wing is complying.

"At the MAJCOM inspector general, we use it to get an overall look at areas of non-compliance and to see how the wing is working to make it compliant. Now, when Airmen are self-identifying non-compliance or 'red' items, it empowers them to recognize it and communicate it up the chain to where it can be actionable," said Van der Veer.

Simply, the program gives Airmen the opportunity to take action, build a plan to fix it and implement the fix.

There will be times when inspectors will look in MICT to see how programs are doing and then there will be times where inspectors visit the base to see an exercise conducted.

"The days of seeing large numbers of inspectors on base are dwindling," he said. "You'll see smaller teams of maybe 15 to 20, once or twice per year, depending on what we are going to look at."

The colonel says the new system is not just about inspecting the wartime mission, but also about the day-to-day mission, whereas most inspections in the past have been entirely operations centered.

"With shrinking budgets and the tyranny of distance within the Pacific area of responsibility, what we need to do is try to bundle our trips," said Van der Veer. "So if we travel to Alaska to see Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, I have to leverage that opportunity to try and go see something at Eielson that may be completely different. We will try to wrap a couple different sites into one trip and then document and archive our findings."

From the new AFIS standpoint, the 354th Fighter Wing has led the command in establishing a wing IG system that would enable the unit to do its own exercises and give a valid assessment to the MAJCOM of the plan, execution and readiness.

There have been challenges along the way, according to Van der Veer, but none of those challenges present anything that can't be tackled as a team.

"One challenge we've had is expectation management. What did the wing anticipate we were going to do when we came up here and what did we expect the wing was going to do? Because it is a new system, I don't think we fully understood what those challenges were going to be," Van der Veer said. "There was a lot of positive here, but we might communicate better what our role would be and what we expect from the wing. That's something my team will take from this experience and work for future inspections, not only here, but at other bases as well."

The colonel says Eielson is leading the pack in PACAF and the pride and hard work the Iceman Team has put into their programs and units is evident in the great attitudes and work ethic of Airmen here.

"The program Eielson has in place is solid," said Van der Veer. "Readiness has always been on the forefront here and it has been communicated. I believe everyone understands the importance of having a focus on mission execution and readiness."

Van der Veer added the support the IG team has received over the last two weeks has been nothing short of outstanding.

"From the availability of vehicles, to travel from the airport, to lodging, to the very receptive Airmen here who embraced us and gave us the opportunity to work on our processes, is refreshing," he said. "The wing did very well."

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