Commander focus: building sustainable readiness in 2013

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. C.K. Hyde
  • 86 AW Commander
The New Year provides an opportunity to reflect on past achievements and focus our priorities in 2013. The 86th Airlift Wing and Team Ramstein had a monumental year in 2012. We were continuously engaged in operations in the U.S. European Command, Africa Command and Central Command areas of responsibility, providing combat airlift and operating the Air Force's premier installation to enable and assure strategic capabilities. Our mission has never been in greater demand.

Our focus on the Year of Readiness in 2012 allowed our Airmen at the individual, unit and installation levels to excel. We flew more than 15,000 accident free hours, generated 23 crews and 12 aircraft within 48 hours for operations in Libya, conducted a noncombatant evacuation operation for 32 State Department personnel after our consulate in Benghazi was attacked and returned four killed Americans, including our ambassador, with dignity. Our joint mobility processing center executed 691 missions, deploying joint and NATO forces around the globe. Our Deployment Transition Center and Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility continued to provide unmatched reintegration and medical care for warriors, while our base delivered world-class environmental excellence, reducing water use by 2.1 percent and energy consumption by 3.8 percent, which is 21 percent from our fiscal year 2003 baseline.

The importance of Ramstein Air Base to our nation has never been greater; we are the focal point for U.S. Air Forces Europe and U.S. Air Forces Africa's enduring capabilities; mobility access and velocity, command and control of aerospace and cyber forces, communications and data transfer, logistics support, and throughput and contingency beddown. Our mission is essential to our nation and allies' success.

We proved we were ready in 2012, but past accomplishments do not guarantee future success against adaptive enemies. We must capitalize on our progress and build sustainable readiness in 2013 despite the challenges of the current fiscal environment. Fortunately, our strategic plan, commanders inspection program, and focus on continuous improvement provide the vision, process and tools to overcome any challenge and deliver the combat readiness that makes our Air Force the dominate power on the planet.

Our strategic plan is about 10 pages and outlines our priorities: maintaining readiness, developing Airmen, strengthening partnerships, providing exceptional quality of life, and eliminating nonvalue-added activities in our major processes. Our priorities provide focus for all we do and a filter for every decision on allocation of our Airmen's time and resources. They link every Airman to our mission and vision, and focus our collective strength as an unbeatable team. War-fighting is a team endeavor, and our strategic plan provides our team focus.

The commander's inspection program turns the old inspector general's inspection system on its head and returns responsibility and accountability for unit inspection to the chain of command, right where it belongs. At the wing level, we implemented a comprehensive inspection system with two lines of operation, compliance and readiness.

Compliance ensures we operate in accordance with Air Force guidance and use our resources effectively. We inspect a squadron or unit about every three weeks with limited notice, document discrepancies and continuously track correction of deficiencies. The focus is on self-identification of problems, implementing a solution and building sustainable, compliant processes.

Our master readiness plan integrates our training, exercises and deployments into a comprehensive readiness and inspection system. We constantly inspect a portion of everything we do to achieve a sustained level of readiness and eliminate the peaks and valleys associated with the old, periodic IG inspections. We've all been in units that "spun-up" for an inspection and then moved onto "normal" business while readiness returned to the pre-inspection level. No more. Training, inspections, and fixing problems are a steady state business that allows commanders to focus on the mission and deliver capable, credible and responsive forces--anytime, anywhere.

Finally, continuous improvement is the lifeblood of war fighting and successful organizations. Our strategic plan made it a priority, and we have already started seven Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century events on our wing's major processes. There is no such thing as an outstanding unit that is maintaining its performance. We either continuously improve or forfeit our dominance to those who innovate and improve faster than we do. Our Airmen are adaptable, innovative and our greatest asset. Our commitment to continuous improvement using AFSO21 and other tools allows us to harness the world's best Airmen, our asymmetric advantage and overcome the challenges of 2013 and beyond.

I believe 2013 will be another phenomenal year for the Airmen of the 86th Airlift Wing and Team Ramstein if we focus on implementing our strategic plan, building a new inspection culture and committing to continuous improvement. These focus areas will deliver the sustainable readiness upon which our nation depends.