WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo --
The Unit Effectiveness Inspection Capstone event is upon us. It is time to panic. We need to lock all of our skeletons back into the closet. We need to replace all of our binders with pretty new ones. We need to…wait a minute, what are we talking about? I thought we fixed all of this? If this is your thought, then you would be correct.
For those who have come into the Air Force in the last five years, or if this is your first inspection with the 509th and 131st Bomb Wings, then this article is for you.
Back in January 2013, the then-Air Force inspector general, Lt. Gen. Stephen Mueller, rolled out the Commander’s Inspection Program under the new Air Force Inspection System. In his rollout, he provided the following:
“We can no longer afford to waste time preparing for inspections. Truth is we never could, but the cost of wasted effort is more obvious than ever. In the new inspection system, inspection preparation will be unnecessary and ineffective. Inspection preparation will become less necessary as commanders strengthen their day-to-day core mission capabilities and continually improve their own ability to detect and prevent atrophy and build trust up and down the chain that honest, accurate reporting is more highly valued than green metrics (or green grass).
“Inspection preparation will be less effective as commanders further ingrain inspection – critically assessing how a unit can improve – into the daily fabric of unit culture.
“In the new Air Force Inspection System, commanders will inspect their unit’s ability to execute the mission and manage resources and people to improve performance.”
In other words, commanders would be expected to evaluate their own readiness, and inspectors would assist commanders in that endeavor. Through the Commander's Inspection Program, we made the first substantial move in giving back the authority and responsibility to commanders. Readiness became the true focus, it was no longer about the inspection. The Air Force had put words into action!
Inspecting to improve
Air Force Instruction 90-201 defined the new program, stating: “(An) inspection is an inherent function of command exercised at every level to evaluate the state of discipline, economy, efficiency, readiness and resource management. Inspection preparation is inherently wasteful if not directly aligned with mission readiness. Units are inspection ready when commanders focus on mission readiness and on building a culture of disciplined compliance in which every Airman does his/her job right the first time and when no one is looking. The intent of the Inspector General is to continuously improve the AFIs so there is an ever-shrinking difference – both real and perceived – between mission readiness and inspection readiness. Airmen and commanders must stay focused on the mission and not the inspection.”
The AFI provided a simple, but impactful sentence: “The purpose of inspecting is to improve.”
It further defined the purpose of UEIs, stating that they “validate and verify a wing's CCIP for accuracy, adequacy and relevance, and provide an independent assessment of the wing's resource management, leadership, process improvement efforts and ability to execute the mission.
So why am I telling you all of this?
Brig. Gen. John Nichols, commander of the 509th Bomb Wing, and I are looking forward to the arrival of the Air Force Global Strike Command inspector general and his team to put the finishing touches on a two-year journey, in which they partnered with us to make us better. You hear the general and I always tout how great we think this total force integration is, how great we think our team is and how great our Airmen are. Frankly, you prove this over and over again. But, it helps when outside entities validate what we say.
Does this mean that we don’t have any issues? Absolutely not. There are always areas where we can and should improve, across every spectrum of what we do. That is what is great about our current inspection program – you own it. Commanders, at the lowest level, are not only charged to have their units as ready as they can be with the available resources, but also to identify and document where they fall short.
Inspectors who show up here for the UEI will not be looking at our shortfalls, but will be looking to see that we knew we had shortfalls. We actually are rewarded in a way by being fully transparent. If readiness is the goal, then we need to identify what inhibits our readiness and put plans in place to fix issues or seek the necessary resources to execute the mission.
But, what if the inspectors find something we didn’t identify on our own? Frankly, this is likely going to happen. We are human and we, on occasion, miss things. This will not be the end of the world, but depending upon the issue, may sting a bit. However, it will provide us with an area that we can improve upon and we will do that. With that said, this is a different story if the issue was known and an individual or organization purposefully sought to hide the problem; but, we don’t need to discuss this because that wouldn’t happen with our great Airmen.
Finally, the commanders’ expectations during this UEI are that each of you be the great Airmen that we know you are and that you will showcase the great team that we know we’ve built. Be professional. Show proper customs and courtesies. Don’t argue with the inspectors. If you have a contentious issue, up-channel it to at least a group commander, if not a wing commander. And lastly, bring energy, enthusiasm and pride for what you do for our nation.
In addition, as the general says, just because we don’t prep for an inspection, doesn’t mean we don’t pick up the house before company comes to visit. When your mom comes to visit, you probably don’t remodel the house, but you at least clean up the house. Our house is this base and your workspace; please help us put our best foot forward. (On a side note, if you don’t pick up your house when your mom comes to visit, shame on you. She deserves better!)
As I mentioned earlier, this UEI should not be considered a significant emotional event. It is wholly intended to help us continue to be the best.
Lead strong; make a difference!