22nd LRS improves McConnell's deployment process

  • Published
  • By Capt. Johari Hemphill
  • 22nd Logistics Readiness
The current operations tempo for deployments is something our Cold War predecessors could not have imagined. The Air Force has actively worked to change the mentality and culture of our Service due to the events of September 11, 2001 and President Bush declaring the Global War On Terrorism. It is transforming into a more agile, expeditionary force, trying to cope with increasing ops tempo and taking on more traditionally Army-type missions. At the same time, the Air Force is drawing down its manning levels due to force shaping and budget cuts. These two situations combined put tremendous strain the Air Force's most valuable asset, its people. The solution for this seeming contradicting problem of increasing missions but decreasing force structure it to utilize highly trained Airmen from every career field, evaluating and streamlining their own processes to improve efficiency and eliminate waste. In order to facilitate this effort, the Air Force adopted Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century. The 22d Air Refueling Wing is using this new AFSO21 strategy to improve the wing's current deployment process.

The Wing took a group of smart Airmen from several squadrons (subject-matter experts on deployments), locked them in a room and had them apply the concepts of AFSO21 to break down the deployment process and literally write out every step involved on the walls. Just imagine a room with white walls and no windows (no, not an insane asylum), with all four walls covered almost floor to ceiling with hundreds of sticky notes, colored note cards and with a group of people eagerly describing their respective piece of the process. For three weeks, this was the daily visual as the Mission Support Group teamed up with representatives from the Maintenance, Operations and Medical Groups and various base agencies to try and come up with improvement ideas. A Rapid Improvement Event is an AFSO21 brainstorming session intended to maximize value and minimize waste in the current process. The group identified three separate areas in the deployment process as potential candidates for RIEs: Unit Deployment Manager Function, Out-Processing and the Mobility Bag Process.

Unit Deployment Manager
The UDM has a vital job because he monitors the pulse of the organization for the commander to ensure people are trained and ready to deploy at a moment's notice. He sounds like an important person, right? Unfortunately, this individual does not always receive the proper training or have all the tools to do the job and quite often is given additional duties which do not pertain to the UDM position.

UDMs are the lynchpin in the tasking process - the installation deployment officer relies on them to facilitate that process. To ensure UDM success, a select group of subject-matter experts held a RIE. They set up and implemented standard initial and recurring UDM training, designed a standard out-processing checklist, redefined the roles and responsibilities of the UDM and developed a Community of Practice on the Air Force Knowledge Now Web site for 24/7 access to vital deployment information. By implementing these ideas and obtaining buy-in from their commanders, UDMs will truly be the "go-to" Airmen and be recognized for the critical role they play in their units. These changes are expected to help UDMs expedite deployment processing while ensuring all deploying members arrive at a deployed location with the training and equipment they need (no discrepancies).

Can you believe the average deployer currently travels nearly 14 miles and spends about 66 hours to accomplish the deployment checklist and outprocess the base? Airmen have the ability to deploy at a moment's notice but not in the most efficient manner. The AFSO21 group found the current deployment process to be redundant, unclear and time consuming. If you have been here long enough and deployed at least once, you are shaking your head "yes" right now. Well, shake your head no more because the RIE team members have fixed the deployment process. They identified deficiencies in the process and developed solutions to increase knowledge, minimize time required to complete the deployment checklist (allowing deployers more time to be spent with their families), but most importantly, to better prepare each Airman for the deployment and help reduce downrange personnel discrepancies.

Instead of walking, running or driving all over the base, referring to the checklist and trying to figure where to go next, the new checklist will be in chronological order for structure and ease of use. The team benchmarked a best practice from the operations group, initiating a single mass initial briefing to include all required agencies (those normally visited for five to 10 minutes per deployer during the infamous "Tour de McConnell" of the old process). The Medical Group now determines deployment eligibility up front, since this is normally a show stopper. Once cleared, the deployer is ready for the four to five day block training to include Chemical Warfare Defense Equipment, Expeditionary Combat Skills training and Combat Arms training. The process is tailored so the deployer goes from one location to the next and knows he does not have to return to a previous location before departing the base for their final destination.

Mobility Bag Process
The UDM guides the deployer through out-processing. The final stop before boarding the aircraft is to obtain all necessary mobility gear stipulated in the reporting instructions. The AFSO21 group found the mobility bag process to be redundant, time consuming and confusing. In addition, inventory accuracy was low, and training on the mobility inventory and control accountability system was not consistent. Once again, if you have been here long enough and deployed, you are shaking your head "yes." This is no longer the case because the RIE team developed a solution.

Now the deployer only makes one trip to the LRS Individual Protective Equipment element (instead of two) because the bags are pre-built, and each item is bar-coded to facilitate rapid issue. The other "plus" to the process is the movement of the IPE bulk storage shelves closer to the issue line to expedite re-stocking and reduce distance traveled by IPE personnel. With the current layout, the customer visits the IPE section one time for as little as two minutes and walks about 10 feet, about a 96 percent improvement over the previous process. If the Wing needs to mass deploy personnel, IPE has the ability to rapidly process 350 people continuously. During a mass deployment, the average issue time is estimated to be approximately 30 seconds per bag.

The results of the UDM and out-processing RIEs will be tested this summer as enablers deploy on Air Expeditionary Force 7/8. The improved mobility bag process was proven during the generation exercise in February when the aircrew was processed at a record pace of 23 seconds per bag. This is the type of agile combat support the supported commander needs when he asks for a capability.

So, the next time you deploy, you probably won't feel as much stress from running all over base with multiple checklists and no guidance. At that time, please think about the people in that room with the white walls, hundreds of sticky notes and colored note cards. McConnell's deployment process RIE team used AFSO21 principles to improve the process for you, the deployer.