Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Making the grade: 188th excels during inspection, earns overall 'satisfactory' rating

by Airman 1st Class John Hiller and Capt. Heath Allen
188th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

8/10/2011 - FORT SMITH, Ark. -- Airmen across the base felt a sense of relief and accomplishment when more than a year's toil came to fruition following an Air Force Air Combat Command Phase I Operational Readiness Inspection conducted at the 188th Fighter Wing July 16-17.

The 188th received a "Satisfactory" rating from ACC Inspector General Team evaluators following the inspection.

The inspection examined deployment ability, including deployment readiness, deployment processing, force protection, information operations and command and control.

While the satisfactory rating is the third highest a unit can receive in the tiered grading system used by the Air Force, Col. Tom Anderson, 188th Fighter Wing commander expressed pride in the Flying Razorbacks' performance amid a rapid pace and high operations tempo work environment. The 188th graded at either Excellent or Outstanding in 70 percent of the 37 major areas inspected by the IG team.

"Our unit performed well under pressure and handled each situation with professionalism," Col. Anderson said. "We overcame several challenges that were not part of the inspection. Our Airmen maintained their poise and continued without missing a beat. I'm very proud of how they performed."

One of those challenges the 188th was forced to surmount was ]a malfunction of the LogMod software that tracks all facets of a deployment. The software failed early in the inspection and forced 188th personnel to manually track all aspects of the deployment the first day of the inspection.

Colonel Anderson said the software's malfunction was not part of the inspection and called it "bad luck."

Airmen also had to cope with extreme temperatures during aircraft generation as well as in the cargo deployment area. Temperatures on the flightline reached 140 F. Despite the extreme temperatures, the 188th suffered no heat-stress related injuries during the exercise.

Despite encountering multiple obstacles, Col. Anderson said there were areas in which the unit achieved perfect scores.

One of those areas was in the preparation of "mobility folders" for 331 personnel, which each contained 76 items, accounting for more than 25,000 documents.

The day before the ACC Inspector General's team revealed the 188th' scores for the ORI, Lt. Col. Scott Langdon, officer in charge of the personnel deployment function, had a feeling that the unit performed well.

"Right now there's a lot of high morale in PDF since the inspection," Colonel Langdon said. "We were pretty tired before the ORI started, but we can see now that all the hard work was worth it."

Another challenge faced by the PDF staff was that most Airmen came from other specialties, and had to be trained in processing for personnel deployment, Colonel Langdon said.

Airmen from the 188th Civil Engineering Squadron filled a number of roles from delivering briefings in the wing assembly area to maintaining accountability of deploying personnel, he said.

The recruiting office was also lauded for their work in the eligibility section, he said. Colonel Langdon said inspectors examined 60 records at random and found zero discrepancies.

"Honestly, I wish I could go down the list and brag on every single person," he said. "Going in to this I felt we were an outstanding PDF, but now I believe it's been proven."

Colonel Langdon said one of the innovations the wing used to succeed was to fully integrate the wing assembly area (WAA) into the PDF. The WAA isn't a new concept. The 188th got the idea from the 132nd Fighter Wing based in Des Moines, Iowa - but it usually stands on its own, he said.

There were challenges in dealing with accountability, Col. Langdon said, but his team handled each wrinkle the inspectors threw at them.

The WAA and PDF processed 343 airmen through their area during the ORI, and did so at a faster pace than they rehearsed during practice exercises, Langdon said.

"We found it greatly improved communications," he said. "That's why we were able to hit our processing times every time. Not a minute early, not a minute late, but dead on."

Another area in which the 188th excelled was network defense. The unit received a 100 percent score in network defense, which tested the 188th's ability to respond to cyber threats, such as computer viruses.

Also, all seven simulated cargo aircraft departures were completed on time with no safety violations.

The inspection was the first ORI for the 188th since 2005 before the unit underwent an aircraft transition from the F-16 Fighting Falcon to the A-10C Thunderbolt II. Colonel Anderson said the unit is still building experience in the maintenance of the A-10s.

Colonel Anderson said maintenance of the F-16 was a more automated, streamlined process, while the A-10 process involved a more hands-on approach, taking equipment apart, troubleshooting, correcting and then reassembling equipment.

Colonel Anderson said a safety violation could be as small as the inability to account for a single "D" battery that is listed as a part of an aircraft's cargo.

Despite his high praise for the men and women off the 188th, Anderson said there is always room for improvement, which is the purpose of the ORI.

The second phase of the ORI will require the 188th to prepare for and execute simulated combat missions while under simulated attack by a hostile force.


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