Experts tour Robins, discuss AFSO21

  • Published
  • By Wayne Crenshaw
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Efforts of Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century to find better ways to get things done brought some top military and civilian leaders to Robins this week in part to see where things are being done right.

On Tuesday, a group of 19 general officers toured parts of the Air Logistics Center then spent an afternoon discussing Smart Operations concepts, commonly referred to as AFSO21.

In another tour, a group of current and former civilian industry leaders working for the Air Force's Highly Qualified Experts program toured the 116th Air Control Wing which operates the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System. The HQEs also toured the ALC.

Brig. Gen. John Posner, director of Air Force Smart Operations, came to Robins with the two groups along with his deputy director, Dr. Ron Ritter. General Posner said Robins was picked for the tour in part because it sets an example of the process improvements that AFSO21 is seeking, which Mr. Ritter described as "trying to do things better, faster and cheaper."

"Robins has a reputation for having started applying these kinds of activities to the way they do business," General Posner said. "A lot of people would argue they have a better record of success in the Air Force than most of the rest of the Air Force."

The general officers group was made up of high-level military and civilian leaders. It included Robins' executive director Brenda Romine and Brig. Gen. Mark Atkinson, commander of the 402nd Maintenance Wing.

"They are looking at Robins to provide them with lessons learned," General Atkinson said. "They are looking at Robins to provide them with some trained people that can help institutionalize these concepts throughout the Air Force. As a team, Robins really is on the leading edge of AFSO21 implementation throughout the Air Force. That was very evident throughout the course."

He said the course and its content were great, and he believes the logistics and maintenance communities are "ahead of the game" compared to the rest of the Air Force. He also said Robins is leading the way for the Air Force.

"The third thing I got out of the course was pride in Robins. As I look back over the past five or six years and the things Robins has accomplished, Robins really is an Air Force leader and the rest of the Air Force is looking to Robins to continue that leadership," General Atkinson said.

The HQEs were brought here both to learn more about the Air Force and to share ideas about process improvements. General Posner said the HQE program was created to help the Air Force improve through "a new set of eyes."

"A lot of people have had the experience of walking into an organization fresh, with fresh perspective, and not inculcated into what that organization has been doing for a long period of time," General Posner said. "They can see things that folks in the organization that are ingrained and entrenched in that organization can't see anymore."

The four HQEs - Don Doles, Craig Habakangas, Maria Elena Stopher and Matthew Bohnert - all said they entered the program in large part because they want to give back to the country by offering their experience to the Air Force.

Mr. Doles, who is retired from a tool-making company, said he hopes he can contribute to improving the way the Air Force does things.

"It's really about creating the culture of how do we do work and how do we get better about doing work," he said.

Considering how many highly trained, experienced people are in the Air Force, Mr. Doles said not everyone is necessarily enthused about taking advice from an outsider.

"It's a spectrum," Mr. Doles said in describing the reactions he gets when communicating with Air Force personnel, "all the way from people who are absolutely excited and pushing the ball up hill to people who think this is just another program and they can outlast it. I will say that the leadership has been very supportive."