ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
As the surrey rolled past stripped-down F-15 fuselages and busy aircraft maintenance hangars, an appreciative smile came across the visitor’s face.
“This is so much better than being in the Acquistition conference room,” Col. Matthew Bonavita said, rising from his seat to step out onto the Robins Air Force Base flight line.
Bonavita, deputy director of the Directorate of Global Reach, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Acquisition, had arrived at the final stop of a whirlwind tour of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex for a group of distinguished visitors from the Pentagon on Dec. 13.
The man who convened the tour couldn’t agree more with his deputy’s delight.
“From my perspective, this was perfect,” Brig. Gen. Eric Fick said to the assemblage at tour’s end. Fick, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition Global Reach Programs director, is responsible to the Air Force acquisition executive for the service’s $5.6 billion airlift, air refueling, training and special operations programs portfolio.
He hand-picked 36 members of the SAF/AQQ and A4 (Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection) staff for a one-day tour of the complex and “exposure not just to Robins, but to the sustainment enterprise at large.”
Five years after a massive Air Force Materiel Command reorganization and the advent of the Air Force Sustainment Center, dramatic adjustments have been made at the nation’s three air logistics complexes, Fick said in a base operations interview.
“Significant progress has been made … I fear that word is not making it beyond AFMC. I wanted us to wrap our brains around some of the changes. What I really wanted to do, I was hoping to give the staff a little bit more of that sustainment awareness.” “This was exactly what I was looking for,” Fick said.
Bonavita’s enthusiastic statement inside the surrey was evidence the general’s intent had been realized. At that final tour stop inside the F-15 Wing Shop, the colonel explained his zeal for the visit.
“Instead of PowerPoint slides, you see what the PowerPoint slides are about,” Bonavita said. “You need us to do what we do so you can do what you do.
“This is the point,” Bonavita said, gesturing to the work being done in the wing shop. “What they do is the point.”
Col. Gerald McCray, WR-ALC vice commander, hosted the tour, travelling with Fick on the lead of two surreys that hit select highlight points in the complex mission.
Detailing WR-ALC mission work for the tour group, McCray spoke often of the complex work force’s embracing of the Art of the Possible. AoP was also a major, frequent focus of briefers and guides at every tour stop.
“AoP is actually just good, strong ops management philosophy,” McCray said. “It’s ops management from a process perspective.”
On the day’s first surrey trip, McCray told the group, “We want to sell you on what the complexes do – how we integrate not just internally to Warner Robins, but how we interconnect with the other ALCs, and importantly, how we integrate with DLA (the Defense Logistics Agency).”
McCray said great success has been achieved because of changes in the workplace culture; in particular, an emphasis on Continuous Process Improvement bolstered by AoP. He praised the AoP focus on common goals across the production line. McCray emphasized how at “the bullseye of the AoP leadership model, the center of attention is the technician on the line.”
Endless credit was given to how AoP has all of the complexes and their partners sharing a common vernacular.
“It’s pretty easy to be on a performance review when aircraft maintenance crews at Tinker and Ogden are speaking the same language as we are,” McCray told the visitor’s in the ALC conference room. Before boarding their return flight, Fick told his staff it was important to “know what happens here doesn’t just happen here,” and that AoP has “momentum across the enterprise.”
Along on the tour was Col. Rod Bloker, Defense Logistics Agency Aviation at Warner Robins commander. During a stop in the 402nd Electronic Maintenance Group facility, Bloker confirmed the successes of the AoP culture change and how important it was for the AQ staffers to see how the Robins team uses “seamless ops to ensure supportability.”
“One of the big takeaways for this is how seamlessly integrated DLA is to the complex,” Bloker said. “Everyone is just on the same team with the same goals. That comes with candor, as well. We hold each other accountable.” Ellen Griffith, WR-ALC Business Operations director, Hugh Foskey, 638th Supply Chain Management Group deputy director, and Bloker joined McCray in providing mission information throughout the entire tour.
Fick said the tour ranged from “wrench turning to mind bending.” Stops included the LANTIRN, F-35 and color weather radar and Mustang tester shops in the 402nd EMXG; the C-5 and C-130 Software Integration Laboratories in the 402nd Software Maintenance Group; the 402nd Commodities Maintenance Group’s F-15 Wing Shop; and the 560th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron’s C-130 programmed depot maintenance hangar in the 402nd Aircraft Maintenance Group.
The visitors were given lunchtime briefings on the WR-ALC mission and Air Force Life Cycle Management Center partnerships.
Pre-tour preparation for the tour group actually began with a teleconferenced briefing on the AFSC enterprise in the AQ conference room the day before their flight to Robins. Brig. Gen. Tom Miller, AFSC vice commander, conducted the briefing.
Fick said the true worth of the daytrip to Robins won’t be known until all of the tour group members rise to leadership positions in the acquisition field. “Initial prospects are good,” he said, “but we’ll see how it turns out.”