'A comprehensive approach': 10th ABW preps for upcoming IG inspection

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 10th Air Base Wing here is gearing up for an Inspector General evaluation April 7-15.

  The evaluation, called the Unit Effectiveness Inspection, will focus on four major graded areas: executing the mission, leading people, managing resources and improving the unit.

"During previous inspections, the team would come, take a snapshot of our organization and leave," said Col. Stacey Hawkins, 10th ABW commander. "If that snapshot was good, we passed. If it was bad, we failed. Right now, the 10th ABW is being assessed and the data collected is building a photo album of mission performance rather than a snapshot. Civilian and military Airmen across the installation are inputting data into the Management Internal Control Toolkit, which documents our compliance across the spectrum of inspectable areas. The team of inspectors has already been analyzing that data, and when the inspectors come here, they're going to validate whether we've been doing the proper things in accordance with Air Force Instruction 90-201 (Inspector General Activities). They'll also reach out to our Airmen to get their personal perspective on how we're accomplishing our mission."

This is the first year the Academy is being evaluated based on the UEI system.

"It's a comprehensive approach, and it's the first time in my Air Force career I've seen the Air Force focused on the whole mission performance picture," Hawkins said. "It's not just how well you're filling out a checklist, it's not just a moment in time - it's focusing on really improving activities at the process level. What it really does is test how well we can integrate our customers - which in the Academy's case are our mission elements - and to what extent we are communicating effectively to understand those customers' requirements, so we can plan and program resources to meet those requirements."

An integral part of the new evaluation system is that preparation must be continuous, said Ross Ryan, 10th Force Support Squadron director.

  "The traditional mindset when an IG inspection comes around is to prepare for it," he said. "But the Air Force Inspection Agency has the ability to reach into MICT and look at the checklists at any time. Within FSS, I have 179 checklists, which hold 6,800 individual questions. So we're not going to prepare for the inspection. We're preparing to be excellent every day. The inspectors should be able to come at any time and be satisfied."

Part of the excellence Ryan is encouraging involves going above and beyond the listed checklist regulations.

"We're aware of the fact that not every checklist captures every requirement in all of our regulations at the 10th FSS," he said. "As we've been reading cross-feeds from other bases that have already gone through their capstone, it's kind of a common theme. A couple years ago, my predecessor had us go through all of our regulations and find every instruction that said 'The commander must' or 'The squadron should,' and we ended up with a 640 question checklist, which we've since scrubbed down to around 500 questions. By having this checklist in addition to the other ones, we've ensured we won't miss anything."

Hawkins said the new system will depersonalize the success of any one commander or leader, because everyone will be integrated.

"From year to year, or MICT input to MICT input, this photo album of data we're collecting will live on in perpetuity," he said. "When people look back, they won't be able to say, 'When Colonel Hawkins was here the wing did well, and the wing did a little bit better when the next guy came.' Instead, our Airmen will hopefully see the wing projecting a culture of continuous improvement. That's the thing to remember; this data isn't just going to be collected and labeled good or bad, it's going to inform programming and resource decisions at the highest levels of the Air Force."

Hawkins said evaluations like this are part of why the Air Force is a powerful force.

"We're the world's greatest Air Force, and no one else is even close," he said. "I think we've gotten that way because we're willing to continually improve the execution of our mission, efficiently manage resources, and effectively lead our people. We talk about our Air Force as being innovative, and constantly finding new ways to go above and beyond the mission. It's through this inspection process that we're able to bring everybody along, and to have those baseline standards of professionalism and mission effectiveness that keeps us as the world's greatest air force."

Editor's note: This is part one 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.