by Airman 1st Class Jarrod Grammel
23rd Wing Public Affairs
An Airman with the 23d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron uses an ammunition loading adaptor (ALA) to download 30-millimeter rounds into an A-10C Thunderbolt II ammo drum prior to a pilot training mission at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., Jan. 5, 2012. U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas MacDougall, 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron combat armament support team chief, earned $10,000 for his idea to modify the 76-link download chute, which would've saved the Air Force $1.6 million last year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Eileen Meier) Hi-res
9/7/2012 - MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Removing six links from a device used to load the A-10C Thunderbolt IIs 30mm Gatling gun would have saved the Air Force $1.6 million last year. An armament specialist at Moody noticed this and came up with a simple, effective solution that earned him $10,000 through the Innovative Development through Employee Awareness (IDEA) program.
Ammunition loading adapters (ALA) use two chutes made from these links to load and unload 30mm ammunition from A-10s. The 70-link upload chute, which loads the gun, costs $22,918. However, the 76-link download chute, which unloads the gun, only costs $4,755. The two are identical except in the number of links, and there was already a technical order describing how to remove the links.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas MacDougall, 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron combat armament support team chief, came up with the idea of removing the six extra links and reattaching it to the box end on the ALA.
"One day after ordering the links, I saw the price and thought it couldn't be right," said the six-year armaments specialist. "So, I filled out a Zero Overpricing Challenge form."
But, to MacDougall's surprise, the solution was rejected, and he was initially told it would not save the Air Force any money.
"I initiated the process in May 2011 and they rejected it in August 2011," said MacDougall. "It was frustrating. I felt like no one was listening. I was just a senior airman, and it seemed like people were wondering how I could have found a better way to do something the Air Force has been doing for decades."
MacDougall's supervisor and mentor, Master Sgt. Marcus Wimberly, 23d EMS armament flight chief, was also confident in the idea and told MacDougall to resubmit the package.
"After being rejected, I sat down with him to work on it," said Wimberly. "He was frustrated, but I didn't let him give up. It was a good idea."
MacDougall was grateful for Wimberly's guidance and mentorship. With his help writing memorandums and putting together the package, MacDougall's second attempt was successful.
"Some time went by, and Wimberly said I should try again," said MacDougall. "He really helped me with the writing so I could focus on getting my message and idea across. I sent it back up, and within three days it was approved by IDEA.
"I didn't believe it until the money was in my checking account," he added. "Once the money was deposited, I knew it was accepted, and that was a good feeling."
This wasn't the only improvement MacDougall has made. He has submitted five other Air Force Technical Order Form 22s that were approved.
"He is very knowledgeable and one of our top guys," said Wimberly. "I put him in for a lot of awards, because he truly deserves them. He goes above and beyond. He is a model NCO. He is a new staff [sergeant], but you would never be able to tell. He really leads from the front."
Wimberly added the idea is not just about saving the Air Force money and getting a check.
"He set the tone for the shop to look at the whole scope of what they are doing," he said. "MacDougall is being innovative, and he set the bar high."
However, the innovative armament Airman says he wasn't always good with mechanics. While walking back from a warehouse, MacDougall laughs and admits he couldn't even change the tire on a car before joining the Air Force.
Despite the challenges of learning the job, submitting the package and the initial rejection, MacDougall kept trying. He urges everyone to take action if they notice something that could be done better. To help with this, every installation has an IDEA office that helps with the submission process.
"If you see a problem, fix it," said MacDougall. "If people don't listen, keep trying until they do."