USAFA headquarters focuses on being mission-ready over inspection-ready

The Air Garden at the U.S. Air Force Academy. (U.S. Air Force/Courtesy Photo)

The Air Garden at the U.S. Air Force Academy. (U.S. Air Force/Courtesy Photo)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Air Force Academy has been steady, over time, in its preparations for the upcoming Inspector General inspection. It's not just in time - it's on purpose.

"I think people in the Air Force are used to having to prepare for something," said Col. David Kuenzli, Academy inspector general. "It's a bit of a culture shift. Everyone wants to get up for the big game. However, you can't be prepared for the big game overnight. It takes a lot of work, practice and training ahead of time to be ready. But if you're mission-ready, you are inspection-ready."

This is not about preparing once a year or once every two years, said Col. Kevin Lamberth, the Academy's vice superintendent.

"This is about being excellent every single day," he said.

Lamberth said the AFIS empowers commanders to look into their organizations through two methods which complement each other. 

First, Airmen use the Management Internal Control Toolkit to self-identify issues.  MICT is an online system that holds checklists for each unit. To fulfill the mission appropriately, units must evaluate their progress based on those checklists. 

Second, commanders use their inspector general to validate these self-assessments as well as assess the effectiveness of installation units and programs. 

These two methods used together give commanders a sense of their unit's health, identifies possible blind spots and weak points and empowers Airmen to fix them.

"It gets back to having visibility and having conversations every day versus a mad dash to get prepared for inspections right before the inspectors arrive," Lamberth said. "The old system mandated various inspections periodically, usually every two years. Often times, units would start ramping up six months prior. When the inspectors left, there might be a propensity to exhale and those programs to atrophy. Under the new system, mission ready really means being inspection ready and every day is an opportunity for excellence."

Kuenzli said AFIS allows the Air Force to save time and resources while still maintaining high standards. Rather than planning long trips to bases for inspections, inspectors can now use MICT and inspect the base at any time prior to arriving. Once there, they only need to validate what they've already seen.

"Air Force senior leaders want to make informed decisions about where they allocate resources," he said. "The AFIS allows them to do that. It's an attitude shift and it's absolutely appropriate. I think commanders wanted this inspection system 25 years ago, but we didn't have the tools to be able to execute it."

Lamberth said a key aspect of the new system is there's no longer motivation to hide mistakes or discrepancies in order to avoid censure.

"This is not to impress the inspectors," he said. "The inspectors can look into the system from wherever they are, just like we can. We've self-identified things we need to improve upon, and we're not hiding that from the inspectors. We're working on improving those things and it's that continuous process improvement that they care about."

Lamberth said the best thing Academy personnel can do for the inspection is to know the part they play in the Academy's mission.

"The mission of the Academy is to develop leaders of character to lead the Air Force in service to our nation," he said. "If you know how you contribute to that, you can make a difference. When the inspectors come, be proud of your program. If you know how you fit in the big scheme of things and can articulate that, you can make a difference. It doesn't matter your occupational specialty, you are an important part of this mission and you need to know that."

Kuenzli said he's confident the inspectors will be impressed with our people and mission readiness.

"I'm very happy about the way this base and the leadership have embraced this inspection system," he said. "Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, the Academy superintendent, implemented the new inspection system 18 months ago, and she has used it very effectively. One of her intents is to work toward continual improvement, and I feel like we've all been a part of that."

The inspection team is slated to be here April 6 through April15.

Editor's note: This is part two in a two-part series showcasing the effort of Academy Airmen to prepare for a U.S. Air Force Inspector General inspection slated for April.