Robins TMO keeps personal property moving during height of pandemic

  • Published
  • By Holly Logan-Arrington
  • Robins Public Affairs

When the going gets rough, the tough get going.

The Personal Property Section in the 78th Logistics Readiness Squadron’s Traffic Management Office at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, is living proof of this.

The section is charged with the efficient moving of personal belongings, such as household goods, of Airmen and their families from one military installation to another during the permanent change of station process.

Master Sgt. Suleiman Meho, superintendent in the Personal Property Section of Robins’ TMO, led efforts to locally implement updated Air Force guidance in late 2018 to increase the physical inspection rate for household goods shipments from 50% to 80%.

“This update would ensure newcomers to Robins and those leaving us would see a qualified inspector at their residences during their household goods shipment pickups and deliveries,” he said.

Before much of the U.S. had heard of the coronavirus disease, the Robins TMO Personal Property Section was implementing the concepts and principles of the Art of the Possible, commonly called AoP, to correct any flaws in the process of moving personal goods.

AoP is a constraints-based management system designed to create an environment for success by creating a culture of problem-solvers, defining processes, eliminating constraints, and continuously improving processes.

“In 2019, our office utilized AoP to identify constraints throughout our process, the biggest being qualified inspectors,” Meho said. “Since AoP is continuous, when COVID-19 hit last year, we had a different set of issues and constraints to address.”

Meho said his team reviewed its processes through the AoP machine and found new constraints.

“We had to take into consideration the health and safety of our customers and inspectors as they went out on inspections during the pandemic,” he said. “The Installation Transportation Officer Mickie Etters implemented new guidance for our inspectors, informed customers of changes, established a telework schedule, and utilized Microsoft Teams to ensure our office was able to provide customers the high standard of service they were accustomed to before the pandemic.”

Of all the adjustments the Personal Property Section made to its processes, Meho said those made to inspections had the most impact.

“Moving can be a stressful time for our members,” he said. “Our inspectors arrive at the residence to ensure the moving carriers are abiding by the tender of service. Our inspectors cover 17 counties, spanning more than 2,900 square miles for physical inspections.”

Meho said providing on-site inspectors during PCS moves assisted military members with navigating their pack out or delivery, answering any questions or concerns from members and their families, ensuring transportation service providers or agents are adhering to the tender of service contract, and resolving issues between military families and the carrier or local agent.

At the start of the pandemic, the Air Force released a stop-movement, halting all travel.

“We used the time provided by the stop-movement to develop our plan for pandemic operations,” Meho said. “Our AoP machine enabled us to expedite our review process and implement our plan.”

That plan included limiting in-person staff, meeting customers outdoors to turn in documents if they were unable to provide them electronically, converting face-to-face meetings to virtual or phone-based briefings, among other adaptations.

Meho said it was essential for TMO to find a way to work in the new COVID-19 environment.

“Our TMO motto across the Air Force enterprise is ‘It Just Won’t Go…Without TMO,’ and this pandemic required TMO Airmen to come together and figure out a way to make it go,” he said. “We were able to share our process and pull ideas from other locations to make the mission go. Together, we were able to meet the Air Force mission during the COVID pandemic and that is something we can all be proud of.”

Mickie Etters, transportation officer with Robins TMO, said Meho’s exceptional insight was instrumental to the success of Robins TMO operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“His guidance ensured the safety of our staff, customers and their dependents, as well as the safety of our private sector partners,” she said. “His positive attitude, transportation knowledge, and mentoring attributed to our success. COVID did not stop our services, but it changed the way we do business. Robins TMO has met those challenges head-on and positioned itself to assist customers from other bases.”     

Meho’s ideas and leadership in devising a successful plan to enable his TMO team to not only maintain, but to improve its personal property movement processes a short time before the global COVID-19 pandemic began, adjusting it as the global crisis progressed, captured the attention of his unit’s higher headquarters officials as well.

Master Sgt. Ruben Zamora is a headquarters traffic manager for Personal Property Headquarters at Joint Base San Antonio Randolph, Texas.

As a headquarters traffic manager, Zamora works in the Compliance and Training Branch of Air Force-level TMO Headquarters, providing Air Force installations with needed tools to provide quality personal property support to service members and their families prior to, during and after a household goods move.

Robins is one of the installations that Zamora’s office provides training assistance to and one of the installations that his unit ensures is compliant with regulatory guidance.  

“During the global pandemic, the TMO career field saw an impact in the movement of personal property in similar fashions to other logistics operations throughout the force,” Zamora said. “It slowed down but did not stop completely.

“A member’s personal property is critical to their establishing themselves and their families in a new location and ensuring their quality of life is squared away so they can focus on the Air Force mission,” Zamora said.

Despite the challenges, Zamora said his office made it a top priority to provide installations with tools and resources to continue providing quality customer service and be a resource for further assistance in times of need, ensuring the Air Force mission was never impacted.

Zamora said Meho and his team were able to provide individuals with the necessary information through an in-depth personal property briefing on multiple platforms.

“This program allowed service members and their families to initiate and complete the personal property move process with a peace of mind that this was one less thing to stress about during this most difficult time,” he said.

“Ensuring a member’s quality of life is the best it can be allows them to focus on the Air Force mission knowing their home life is safe and comfortable,” Zamora said. “This process that Master Sgt. Meho created is a program that can be easily duplicated at other installations, increasing the capability of our Airmen.”

Meho has illustrated that Airmen can persevere in the midst of challenging times, Zamora said.

“Master Sgt. Meho is a true leader amongst leaders,” he said. “His innovative thinking and ability to lead his team to create and implement an effective program that helps members throughout his installation is a true testament to the quality of Airmen in today’s Air Force.”

Zamora said other installations could benefit from Robins TMO’s example.

“Based off the requirement for our career field to provide face-to-face and virtual counseling throughout situations such as COVID-19, we are hoping programs such as the one that Master Sgt. Meho created can be adopted by other TMO agencies, proving that we are resilient and capable of providing service members and families support despite whatever challenges we may be facing,” he said.