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Commander's Column

Col James J. Keefe official photo.

Col James J. Keefe official photo.

104th Fighter Wing, Westfield, Mass. -- Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks...

As promised in recent meetings, articles, and e-mails, we will start 2014 with a focus on implementing the new Air Force Inspection System (AFIS). During a recent discussion I had with our vice wing commander, I found myself slipping back into the old mentality of, "how do we beat the Air Combat Command (ACC) Inspector General (IG) at this Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI) thing" mentality.

If I am having trouble wrapping my mind around this new program as the commander, I can only imagine what you must be going through as you try to determine what we will be focusing on as we march toward our "capstone" event in June of 2015. To make this switch, which I believe is the correct way to run an inspection program, we need to leave the old construct of the 104FW versus the ACC IG concept in the past...a very hard thing for some of us crusty "old" dogs to do.

This new program is the commander's inspection program, not the ACC/IG's; a profound and correct change in my opinion. In the past, an ORI only took a snapshot of a unit over a four to five day period every four to six years (longer in our case...).

Outstanding units who had successfully deployed to combat again and again were getting low marks on ORIs. Conversely, some not so combat effective units would put enough lipstick on the pig that they looked as if they could single handedly cure world hunger, find a cure for the common cold, and develop a perpetual motion machine while performing their primary missions. The Major Air Command (MAJCOM) commanders were often not getting a true picture of their wings from the old IG program. The United States Air Force (USAF), realizing that it had not kept its inspection program up with the real world, smartly decided to make a change. Who better to know what to train to and fix then the units themselves! Enter AFIS....

With the help of our group commanders, our base Wing Inspection Team (WIT-comprised of Wing subject matter experts), the ACC/IG (yes, they are on our side now...try to think of them like a Jacoby Ellsbury who comes back to the Sox just prior to Spring training this March), the AFIs and mission requirements; we will build an inspection schedule, which trains us to efficiently and effectively execute our primary missions. We will inspect ourselves, highlight our weak areas, fix the problems, and then repeat this cycle. We will be honest and hold ourselves accountable to the high standards we have always embraced. We can no longer think that a "one year out full-throttle preparation for an ORI" every four to five years is the proper way to prepare and execute our primary mission sets. We don't need to worry about how pretty our Unit Compliance Inspection (UCI) binders look in an attempt to score some points with the inspector. We don't have the time or the resources in today's environment to make this happen...nor does it make sense.

Our first self-graded inspection will be our deployment to Hawaii in March. We will look at our Phase I type processes. We are in the early stages of training our inspection team, and it may seem like a slow start as we won't be using outside inspectors like we have done in the past. Again, the AFIs still apply, and although there is no 90-201 type scoring to be graded against, we will use our stated mission requirements and Design Operational Capabilities as our inspection guide. Using the new four major graded areas, which include executing the mission, managing resources, improving the unit, and leading people; we should be able to identify the areas in need of attention, re-training, or resources to rectify any shortcomings. We will become more experienced at evaluating ourselves as we get more inspections under our belt. When this program finally matures, we should have a system that can accurately pin point our weak areas in short order, allowing us to fix problems quickly.

Our first step in getting this program up and running is well underway. We are educating and training ourselves on how this system is supposed to run. My hope is that you embrace this new philosophy as it does make a whole lot of sense. We are in many respects having to trust the IG, which is a difficult thing to do and a new trick for an old dog like myself...but if I can do it, I am sure you can as well.

Cheers,
Cobra