Equipment is the Airman’s greatest edge

  • Published
  • By Col. Kelly Burns
  • 86th Logistics Readiness Commander
Though people are the Air Force's greatest asset, even the most dedicated and ready Airmen cannot accomplish the mission unless properly equipped.

Our Air Force is very successful, in part, because we enable our units with the best technology available. Unfortunately, not all Airmen appreciate this advantage as shown in the poor way they safeguard and care for the equipment they are provided.

The Air Force makes an incredible investment in vehicles and equipment items. At Ramstein Air Base alone, we posses more than 2,000 vehicles and nearly 400 equipment accounts, containing 49,000 items. The total value of assets in these two areas exceeds $604 million.

Our record for taking care of these critical assets is less than impressive. In fiscal year 2009, Ramstein Airmen had 160 accidents involving government vehicles, and commanders reported an additional 75 cases of abuse. These incidents resulted in $279,000 in damage, the cost of which came directly from operation and maintenance accounts of the units who possessed the vehicles.

This needless and wasteful spending takes limited funds away from other important funding requirements, not to mention the loss of vehicle availability during the repair time. In both cases, the mission suffers.

I realize bad things happen to good people, sometimes resulting in unintentional damage to a vehicle. However, investment in good training programs for those who operate vehicles and an emphasis on reducing speed and increasing focus and attention to detail can make a difference.

Additionally, putting effort into a solid vehicle operator care program can spot small problems before they grow into big ones. Acts such as simply checking the fluid levels, tire pressure, and tire wear patterns as a part of mandatory daily operator maintenance pays huge dividends. Finally, Airmen who intentionally abuse our vehicles must be stopped and disciplined.

In the area of equipment accountability, Ramstein commanders reported 189 lost or damaged equipment items during fiscal year 2009. The total value of items in these two categories topped $1.5 million. Again, it took both unit funds and Air Force corporate funds to replace these items, taking away resources from urgent needs. In a time of shrinking budgets and the reality of more belt-tightening in the future, we simply cannot afford to throw our money away.

Most equipment losses we experience at Ramstein can be tracked to one of two areas: accountability or security. The basic element of asset accountability is the equipment custodian. Commanders are responsible for the equipment under their control, but appoint custodians to implement viable accountability programs. Many losses could be prevented with tighter inventory control and processes, such as hand receipts that maintain a record of custody. Individually issued equipment is another area of common loss. Airmen lose assets every day through theft simply because they fail to secure property or leave it in vulnerable locations, such as their privately owned vehicle.

Asset accountability and care is not just a Ramstein issue. The Air Force Inspector General has made equipment accountability a special-interest item. This means Ramstein Air Base will take a hard look at our equipment accountability program during the upcoming Operational Readiness Inspection. Prepare your section and unit now by contacting the 86th Logistics Readiness Squadron Equipment Accountability Office to learn more about what you can do to ensure your assets are being properly accounted and cared for.

At the end of the day, you get results based on the effort and attention you invest. I encourage Airmen at each level of leadership to give your programs a hard look and support the Airmen who run them. The payback you receive will be increased mission readiness and improved effectiveness of your resource management programs.