'STOP' wasting time

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ceaira Tinsley
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Painful. Daunting. Agonizing.

These words can be used to describe many activities but most Airmen in the Air Force agree that these are the perfect verbs to describe what it’s like creating a perfect standardized document.

To alleviate this issue faced by Airmen at all levels, one first lieutenant created the Standard Template Optimization Program (STOP) which is a modernization of the Air Force Handbook 33-337 The Tongue and Quill, the primary reference used to standardize documents Air Force-wide.

The innovation earned the 39th Air Base Wing’s top spot as this year’s Spark Tank finalist at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. If selected and funded at the Air Force-level, the program will automatically generate standardized documents and form-fillable templates for a variety of common documents. This will ensure every Airmen gets the format right on the first time every time.

Spark Tank is an Air Force-wide campaign framed after a popular business show and is designed to encourage Airmen from all ranks and levels to find new and creative ways to improve the service by finding avenues become more cost-effective, modernized and innovative.

“Routing standardized work is something that Airmen do almost every day and someone has to put eyes on it to ensure it’s correct,” said 1st Lt. Benjamin Jennings, creator of STOP. “(Unfortunately), to get things routed, approved and placed in a file somewhere typically takes a lot of time and effort.

“In the Air Force, we need to lean processes and improve efficiency; to do that, we have to create something that streamlines standard working processing and that’s what this program does. It takes every element of the Tongue and Quill and puts it into one program and standardizes it,” Jennings added.

Jennings who has served in two different career fields while being enlisted and since commissioning, has worked twice as an executive officer and says this idea came to him after realizing that this is an issue across the Air Force.

“Every time someone needs to route a document they create a new template and this inherently builds errors in that process and it’s going to get kicked back,” said Jennings, who proclaims he’s reviewed countless documents and has never seen a document with zero format errors. “It’s something that we all know is a problem but nobody ever acknowledges it. Nobody says ‘this cost a lot of man-hours to route simple standardized work.’”

Not only will this standardize individual processes, but it will also increase standardization and continuity across the Air Force at all levels. The program will allow various organizations to create administrative accounts that will save every standardized document created using that account.  

“When you (move) to a new base you don’t have to search for the local letterhead or search for current appointment letters,” said Jennings, who believes it is impossible to quantify the numbers of man-hours that will be saved using STOP. “Using this program you can simply log in and update your profile. The work is generated and everything is auto-populated and it’s always correct. The idea is to stop recreating the wheel at every base, in every unit, for every Airman.”

According to the 39th ABW’s Spark Tank moderator, this idea was selected to represent the wing because it represents the perfect combination of process improvement and innovation in action.

“The STOP idea has a great deal of potential impact to Air Force at large,” said Tech. Sgt. Andrew McQuary, 39th ABW Spark Tank wing moderator. It attacks a common annoyance and frustration most Air Force members will sympathize with: the lack of standardizations or templates of many common documents such as memorandums, appointment letters, etc. Jennings’ own estimate of 5000 man-hours saved in the first month is likely a conservative estimate; I can see it saving significantly more time when it is applied.”