INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --
“It’s always been done this way.”
This is a phrase that’s been said at almost every job around the world.
It is a phrase that time and time again has halted the possibility of increased initiative, safety, time management and more.
Members of the 728th Air Mobility Squadron are putting an end to that and crafting new ideas from some of their most creative members: junior Airmen and new NCOs.
To encourage creativity and empower the squadron’s future leaders, leadership at the 728th AMS created a Solutions Group, which is comprised of members from across the squadron.
The Solutions Group solves work-related issues they have either experienced or noticed and brainstorm ways to fix those problems.
“When you realize and embrace that everyone has different expertise, you can branch out and you can engage with all your folks and get their opinions,” said Master Sgt. Gene Harper, 728th AMS Air Terminal Operations Center section chief. “As a leadership team, we took a step back to listen, rather than direct; only providing slight guidance to help them to navigate their ideas. Though we might not always be the smartest people in the room, we have a lot of experience and wisdom in all areas.”
The last two Solutions Group meetings generated two ideas that have been highly effective since being implemented, according to Harper.
“It was taking weeks, sometimes a month to get a single member in-processed because they had to go around and track down individuals, the checklist was excessive” said Harper. “The Solutions Group came together, cut half the checklist out and coordinated with all the individuals to have them come in together and in-process new members at the same time. Now, all the people are in-processed in less than a week.”
The Solutions Group is not only improving processes in the 728th AMS, but it’s also building the future leaders of the Air Force.
“A big part of it was definitely getting more voices in the room, because it included Airmen and entry-level leadership,” said Senior Airman John Sears, 728th AMS consolidated tool kit custodian. “We were actually able to get involved in brainstorming, processing and gaining a bigger picture of how we can effect change. I definitely feel like that helped us build and develop our future.”
The 728th AMS develops new processes by using an analogy that helps Airmen better understand where and what they can innovate. On the flightline, a red line separates mission and support. For 728th Airmen, innovation outside the red line is fair game. That’s where they develop ideas and test solutions. They then move innovations through the “entry control point” and inside the red line with risk analysis, testing and data to ensure they can maintain the mission safely.
This analogy can be applied anywhere as it means you can and should continually look for ways to make changes in areas that help Airmen do their job better while ensuring leadership has the opportunity to approve the risk in before it impacts operations.
By Airmen making these leadership decisions they are able to build confidence, solve problems and most importantly own their sections while making failures in a safe environment.
“We use the term ‘failing forward’,” said Harper. “As long as no one gets injured, no vehicles and aircraft get damaged and there's not an excessive amount of money wasted in the Air Force, we have to be able to let individuals fail at things so they can learn.”
By failing forward, 728th AMS has seen their junior members become empowered and comfortable with not waiting around to be told what to do but instead voice different solutions, identify ways to improve the unit, take action and build cohesiveness through teamwork.
Teamwork amplifies leadership and the Solutions Group allows members to better communicate with their peers and have a better understanding of how they can work together to make all of their jobs easier as well as assure mission effectiveness.
“The Solutions Group allows the whole unit to come together to form good solutions,” said Staff Sgt. Victoria Shore, 728th AMS quality assurance. “The most important part was everybody working together and unifying to find a solution.”
The Solutions Group enables a more lethal, resilient and rapidly innovating squadron to safeguard Air Mobility Command and Incirlik’s priority to restore readiness as well as continually advancing the speed of processes and decision making, allowing ever more airpower options to prevail in today's dynamic environment.