Lajes Airmen adopting new inspection attitude

  • Published
  • By Capt Mark Graff
  • 65th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
In years previous, getting close to inspection season meant Airmen drastically ramping up before the inspector general's visit.
However, Lajes Field Airmen are refocusing on inspections in general and are adopting a new inspection attitude ahead of the 65th Air Base Wing's September unit effectiveness inspection.

Now, Airmen are maintaining their current operations tempo leading up to the inspection, but still preparing through increased emphasis on unit self-inspection. 2013's UEI still serves as an opportunity to demonstrate the 65th ABW's effectiveness and capabilities, but without much of the furious administrative overkill of the past.

Gone are the days of filling three-ring binders full with standard operating procedures and appointment letters.

Inspection mindsets encouraging "Welcome IG Team" pep rallies showcasing wing spirit are history.

Beautifying lawns and primping base grounds - also known as "painting rocks" - to impress the inspectors are a thing of the past.

Instead, Maj. Joe Okasinski, the 65th Air Base Wing's officer-in-charge of UEI preparations, said that getting ready for this inspection is actually part of an Air Force-wide reshaping of inspection mentalities.

"The idea is that we're being given tools that allow us to maintain constant awareness on our compliance," said Okasinski, referring to the management internal control toolset, or MICT. MICT is an electronic self-inspection tool enabling units to track requirements and record and develop action plans to correct discrepancies.

The old-school inspection mindset offered wings a chance to demonstrate excellent performance, but too often gave the Air Force an unrealistic view of unit readiness or capabilities.

"It has been recognized that in the past, inspections were a time of peak performance - that you got an extraordinary effort and a peak performance, but a peak, unsustainable performance," said Okasinski. "(Before) we would exercise and we would work compliance issues at a rate that is unsustainable in order to hit our peak numbers right as the inspection team showed up. Then as soon as they left, the programs fell apart again."

Moreover, the ramp up too often associated with previous Air Force inspections exhausted Airmen mentally and physically. Okasinski noted that such emphasis on perfecting a wing's image relied too heavily on Airmen and not enough on the resources and tools already at hand.

"In the past, we would expect that through extraordinary effort, we get to the point where it all gets done. We're recognizing that that requires the personalities to do the job that the systems should be doing," said Okasinski.

Now, MICT is a system placed in every commander's toolkit.

But simply running through a MICT checklist and listing every item as compliant is not the goal, said the major. With added emphasis on the importance of honest self-inspection, recognizing discrepancies is a good thing.

"The new model is that we may not be fully compliant in everything, but we know what our problems are and we are working to get them resolved," Okasinski stated. "The first part is that acceptance that 'It's okay to have a problem.'"

Developing action plans to correct discrepancies is even better. This ensures that leaders know and understand their organization's true capabilities at any given time.
"(We want Airmen to) go out there, find what the problems are and then figure out why we're having problems," Okasinski said. "Is it lack of training, lack of programming, or funds? Is it equipment? Is it conflicting guidance in AFIs?"

Getting back to basics and studying the Air Force Instructions outlining unit operations is key. MICT checklists do not replace AFIs, but help Airmen focus their look at operations, said Okasinski.

"If you have any questions about what's in MICT you always have the AFI to go back to and you may have four paragraphs that expand that single sentence or question from MICT. Once you get in the AFI, then you get your expanded guidance that the checklist may not provide," he said.

Ultimately, adopting and implementing a new inspection mindset may yield some tangible benefits according to Okasinski.

"The end result is that we should have a clearer picture of what our mission is and how to accomplish it," the major said.

Col. Chris Bargery, 65th ABW commander, said that with an inspection looming later this summer, Airmen can expect to pick up the pace with a renewed emphasis on the importance of exercises. Exercising the wing's capabilities to execute its core missions or respond to crises is only one benefit, the wing commander said. Promoting teamwork among new leaders is also important.

"With many new leaders coming into the wing in the coming months, exercising and testing our wing together will afford us an opportunity for strengthening the bonds of our leadership team," said Bargery.

"Our Air Force expects and deserves nothing less than an effective, functional and lethal 65th Air Base Wing. We continually show the Air Force that our professionals keep their nose to the grindstone each and every day, producing outstanding results. Lajes Airmen aren't geared to perform sometimes; they're geared to perform every time," he said.