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Inspection changes for Global Strike Airmen

Note from AFGSC Commander, Gen Robin Rand: Allow me to clarify a new initiative called no-notice on-site visits (OSV) that we started in June 2017. The purpose for no-notice OSVs are to help AFGSC commanders and units achieve a higher state of excellence, improve readiness, and increase lethality.

Led by AFGSC’s Inspector General (IG) office, a team of up to 10 subject matter experts will visit AFGSC units, with or without a nuclear mission, for up to three days and focus on operations, security, maintenance, support, and professional development. The target window for these no-notice OSVs is two to nine months after a unit's last scheduled major inspection (Unit Effectiveness Inspection or Nuclear Surety Inspection).

Of note, no-notice OSVs are not inspections and they are not graded events for wing-level organizations; rather they are on-the-spot observations to provide real-time feedback on daily operations. At the conclusion of the visit, the AFGSC IG team chief will verbally out-brief the unit commander. Unit commanders will have the opportunity to discuss the observations and feedback with the AFGSC commander and numbered air force commanders.

No doubt, the no-notice OSVs will work hand-in-hand with the Air Force Inspection System to ensure our AFGSC commanders and units are organized, trained and equipped to execute combat operations. Strike!

The Air Force Global Strike Command Inspector General team wishes to increase awareness of the Air Force Inspection System, or AFIS. This inspection system focuses on mission readiness without creating extraneous work or preparation, according to Col. Omar Colbert, AFGSC IG Inspection Division Chief.

"Being mission ready means being inspection ready and not vice versa,” Colbert said. “Being ready to execute your mission on a daily basis negates the need for getting ready for an inspection. We want Airmen to focus on training and learning what they need to learn to accomplish the mission. "

In the past, inspections have been more performance and compliance based with standards and less about effectively and efficiently accomplishing the day-to-day job. Air Force Instruction 90-201, The Air Force Inspection System, changed that by making the process more efficient both in the scope of inspections and how the IG conducts them, Colbert said.

"We found that there was an unhealthy reliance in the past on periodic external inspections for assessing the mission readiness of the unit," Colbert said. "We also found that one of the primary incentives for getting in compliance was preparing for an inspection. That wasn't the way we wanted to do inspections.

"This led to the expression ‘painting the grass,'” he added. “Airmen were spending a greater portion of their time preparing for an inspection when the emphasis should be placed on being mission ready on a daily basis."

The Unit Effectiveness Inspection and Wing Commander’s Inspection Program

Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen should expect a Unit Effectiveness Inspection, or UEI, Capstone every two years, with a series of evaluations in between, said Hank Jenkins, Deputy Chief, AFGSC IG Inspections Division.

"The evaluations are continual so there isn't just one inspection, but a cycle of smaller inspections used to build a photo album of mission performance during the course of the UEI cycle," Jenkins said. "We have on-site and virtual inspections. The wings are also doing self-assessments and the AFGSC functional managers are also continuously assessing wing capabilities. Continual evaluation is everyone's responsibility."

Duplicate or overlapping inspections have also largely been removed, Jenkins said. 

Each AFGSC wing or wing-equivalent now has an IG in charge of executing the Wing Commander’s Inspection Program. These wing-level inspections are conducted by Wing Inspection Teams comprised of members from units throughout the wing. The CCIP gives the Wing Commander, subordinate commanders and the wing Airmen the ability to identify risk, identify areas of improvement, determine root cause and precisely focus limited resources, all aligned with the commander’s priorities.

The AFGSC IG team also evaluates these wing inspection programs and their inspection teams, always providing guidance and mentorship to ensure inspections are conducted fairly and remain focused on the mission. The entire process is a team effort throughout all levels of the command, Colbert said.

"We're constantly interacting and communicating with the wings to keep information flowing and ensure they're always mission ready," Colbert said. "The functional managers at AFGSC are responsible for reaching out to the units and observing how effectively they are training and whether or not they are equipped for their respective missions."   

Colbert also emphasized the IG’s role in helping wings gain traction on projects requiring support at major command and higher levels.

“We have had some success stories bringing the right level of attention to problems encountered by the wings which appeared bogged down for various reasons.”

Some examples include helping wings acquire funding to repair a leaking roof on a nuclear weapons maintenance facility and funding to rebuild a live structural fire trainer, according to Colbert.  

The AFGSC IG team will start the UEI Capstone process 90 to 120 days before the inspection by administering surveys addressing areas such as leadership, working conditions, training, morale and base support. A week prior to the Capstone, the IG team will conduct Airmen-to-IG Sessions. These sessions involve small teams interviewing Airmen, specifically targeting areas of leadership, operations and quality-of-life.

"These sessions are tailored to a specific area so we can accurately assess the impact leaders, programs and policies have on the Airmen" Colbert said. "Feedback we receive during the sessions is investigated and validated during the Capstone with findings detailed in the UEI final report in one of four Major Graded Areas."

The Four UEI Major Graded Areas

Every Air Force UEI consists of Major Graded Areas, or MGAs. These areas are Managing Resources, Leading People, Improving the Unit and Executing the Mission.

"Everything we look at will fall into one of these areas," Colbert said. "The wings get a rating or score for each of these MGAs and an overall rating for the Capstone."

In short, these MGAs not only take the mission into account but also how the mission affects Airmen and their families.

"For each of these categories there are sub-categories," Colbert said. "We look at training, quality-of-life at home, and impacts from temporary duty assignments, how many hours the Airmen are working during the day, housing availability and activities in the local area.

"We also look at the quality of support they receive when going out the door on a deployment. We're making sure that the units are compliant day to day so when they're called to go and execute their combat mission they are more prepared to conduct that mission. If anything, the inspection system complements the high operational tempo of the mission."

Nuclear Inspection Programs

Under the AFIS, nuclear focused inspections are conducted by the AFGSC IG. The Nuclear Surety Inspection, or NSI, is a performance-and-compliance-based inspection focusing on a unit’s ability to manage nuclear resources while complying with all nuclear surety standards. Nuclear units will receive an NSI within a 24-month certification cycle and are assessed against up to 12 MGAs. Additionally, nuclear operational readiness is assessed during major Department of Defense, major command and wing-level exercises. The evaluations focus on a unit’s ability to generate, safeguard and employ nuclear weapons safely and effectively. 

No Notice On-Site Visits

By direction of Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, the AFGSC IG is now conducting no notice, on-site visits. Wings can expect a no-notice visit typically two to nine months after their last major inspection (UEI Capstone or NSI). The objective of the no-notice program is to assess a wing’s ability to effectively execute its mission by observing the wing in the conduct of its daily operations. Inspection teams will consist of about ten inspectors, focusing on maintenance, operations, security, people and support.

At the end of the visit, the inspection team members give the wing commander a verbal out brief and written observations on how the unit performed during the assessment.

The Bottom Line

Through AFIS, the AFGSC IG employs a number of tools to accurately and continually assess a unit’s performance, readiness, efficiency, discipline and effectiveness to execute assigned missions, according to Colbert.

“Continuous evaluation is the cornerstone of AFIS and is not only the responsibility of the AFGSC IG,” Colbert said. “But it’s also the responsibility of commanders, wing IGs, AFGSC functional managers and Airmen at every level. Continual evaluation gives commanders timely and accurate feedback on issues interfering with the unit’s ability to conduct daily operations so effective corrective measures can be developed and implemented quickly.

“With the addition of the CCIP, commanders at all levels are encouraged now to focus on mission readiness and building a culture of disciplined compliance and continuous improvement and to avoid wasting Airmen’s time on inspection preparation. Remember: Mission ready means inspection ready.”

The AFGSC IG and his inspection team are committed to the mission as well, Colbert said.

“One thing that must be emphasized is we are truly dedicated to helping the wings,” Colbert said. “We take our role as inspectors very seriously, but more importantly, the roles we play as coaches and mentors to the command’s Airmen and Wing IG teams are just as important. We don’t want to be seen as the IG wearing the ‘black hats’ but as a team of fellow Airmen committed to serving our warfighters and helping them improve mission readiness”.

Colbert added that Air Force Global Strike Command is very fortunate to have an IG team composed of dedicated, knowledgeable professionals whose focus is solely to serve the command.

“Expect the AFGSC IG, Col. Thomas Rudy, and his inspection team to visit your units soon,” Colbert said. “But rest assured, they are truly coming to help.”