USAFE surpasses goals through Combat, Special Interest Programs

Gen. Robert H.

***image1***We all naturally want to do well and, in our case, we set the bar high and the U.S. Air Forces in Europe team not only reached our goals, but exceeded them!
In the military, our business demands excellence and requires dedicated professionals who understand that anything less will cost people their lives. What makes our organization successful is not just all of the hard work, but our ability to work hard together toward a common purpose — our mission.
The 14 Combat and Special Interest Programs instituted within the command are intended to increase our readiness, improve our mission effectiveness and help take care of our people. They help us translate our vision, mission and goals into concrete results and institutionalize our higher standards of excellence.
With this in mind, we developed and implemented a measurement system that covers a wide spectrum of important functions within our organization. Each month we review our CSIP metrics and some 23 other quality indicators, covering everything from how quickly patients are attended to at our medical facilities to how many aircraft assigned to our wings are ready to fly at any given time. The quality indicators identify strengths and weaknesses and provide a baseline to measure improvement. This system provides valuable insight into the health of the organization and our progress toward stated goals.
We can be incredibly proud of USAFE’s accomplishments since program inception. Comparing the April 2004 results to January, USAFE has come a long way in a short time. 
We’ve improved in 50 out of 74 metrics tracked. And, of the 24 remaining metrics, most changed marginally and still met the USAFE goal.   
The examples highlighted here are truly only a peek into the overall success of the programs in total. Results clearly indicate our organization is focused and energized on key mission enablers: readiness, development, services and quality of life.
Combat Flightline puts maintenance experience back on the flightline where it belongs by reducing the number of people working outside of their core duties. This combat program has already returned 50 experienced Airmen back to maintenance production. And, there’s more behind this program such as aircraft appearance and Combat Crew Challenge competitions which ensure our fleet reflects the expertise and professionalism of our crews. We’ve held three no-notice inspections with a 100 percent pass rate so far – the results prove that we’re ready.
Improving the fitness of our people to meet the demands of our combat culture is the focus of Combat Fitness. One-stop shopping at the fitness center for diet management, classes on practicing injury prevention, smoking cessation and physical therapy are but a few of the program’s initiatives. Currently, out of the Airmen tested at USAFE bases, 88 percent meet or exceed the new Air Force fitness standards, well above the AF goal of 75 percent.
The nation needs our leadership more than ever before and it is the inherent responsibility of Air Force leaders to mentor our future leaders. Project Connect is designed to provide a forum for senior officer mentors to counsel and enhance the individual professional development of junior officer protégés on a one-on-one basis. The program has two moving parts: our “Flag Talks” where General officers, prominent senior leaders and corporation chief executives visit our bases sharing their perspective on what it takes to lead today, tomorrow and into the future; and “Bright Horizons” where more than 160 of our USAFE company grade officers will visit headquarters annually to shadow our major command senior leaders. Aligning with Air Force policy for the Mission Driven Mentoring web-based program, USAFE is leading the way with almost 300 mentors registered. While our initial plan focuses on our officer corps, we expect to include our enlisted and civilian force by Fall 2004.
Through Combat Nighthawk sorties, our CGOs and senior NCOs are learning about unfamiliar elements of Air Force operations and gaining valuable experience by representing their wing commanders after duty hours. If we consider the overall goal of the program of leadership development and career-broadening and compare it to comments received by those who participated on sorties, it appears we are heading down the right track. Most comments reflect that people are getting a better understanding of functions out of their specialties.
Through Project SMART (Smartly Managing Awareness, Risk, and Threats) we embedded a safety culture that helped us manage our awareness of risk, actively combat the threats we face, and act smartly when we see something that needs to be fixed. The program has elevated safety awareness appreciably throughout USAFE with emphasis on safety programs and work-related and personal mishap prevention. Bases are sharing ideas and communicating through a focused “Monthly Safety Topics” initiative.
Combat Proud changed the way we look at things and strengthened our commitment to improve our command’s appearance. Like many successful corporations, USAFE’s approach is to improve our ethos / surroundings / facilities / environment / aesthetics / efficiency by ensuring our people are proud of the areas where they live and work. Dramatic improvements in base appearance are evident across the command. The base appearance scoring model goal is 85 percent overall improvements per quarter – the goal has been met or exceeded by every base!
Customer service in USAFE wasn’t bad or in need of repair. The question became do we want to improve upon how well we are taking care of our customers? You bet!! Armed with a cutting edge five-day course curriculum, our Customer College customer-service professionals teach “excellence in service” to the rest of our front-line customer service providers. Exceeding our customer’s expectations is a team effort and we plan to keep raising the bar. So far, more than 1,900 people have been trained.
With the Combat Intro / Exit program, we looked for innovative ways to facilitate inprocessing to a new duty location making the entire process as efficient as possible. We reduced the number of inprocessing stops to three at all USAFE bases – down from as many as 15 stops at some locations. With our use of Virtual Outprocessing, we reduced the number of required outprocessing stops to an average of five per base which ensures our customers outprocess from USAFE as efficiently as we got them on board. These changes not only minimize some of the stress associated with permanent changes of station, but also maximize the amount of time a member can focus on his primary job.
Combat Education initiatives are removing barriers to education throughout USAFE. Nearly 50 percent of all college courses are now taught during non-standard times and almost 15 percent of all classes are offered outside traditional classroom locations. The result – an 11 percent increase in enrollments since October 2003.
Quality of life
After a command-wide survey was accomplished to decide what you wanted, our libraries stocked reading materials you desired as well as CDs and DVDs, increased their number of programs and improved their services through Project Wizard. The 13 libraries in the command are exceeding the Air Force standard of eight programs a year by two programs and the utilization rates for our books and computers are exceeding our goals.
We have more than 2,500 registered volunteers with Hidden Heroes who logged approximately 14,000 hours of service. Since we’ve started there has been a 30 percent increase in volunteer opportunities and volunteer hours served.
Combat Care is about taking care of our families when the active duty member is deployed.
While units do a great job, we want to make sure we’re covering all fronts, and ensuring families left behind know they are a part of our team too! The standardization of the Key Spouses program has enhanced the information flow to our families as well as heightened awareness of resource availability. Now the command is on its way to developing a standardized approach to reintegrating airmen and families.
Project CHEER (Creating Hope, Energy, Enthusiasm, and Recreation) provided 455 high-energy events serving more than 46,000 single and unaccompanied Airmen (enlisted and officer) throughout the command during the holiday season. Bases collaborated and shared ideas for events and activities – some of the favorites included showcases by the USAFE band, basketball tournaments, movie- and bowl-a-thons, and the Spring Fling in conjunction with safety days.
Our chaplains initiated more than 67 programs under Combat Touch, including 13 new flightline / work center offices or prayer spaces, and 2 coffee houses to reach the troops and increase personal well-being and energize individual spirituality.
Although not a formal CSIP, the Power Plant Project is an initiative designed by Airmen, for Airmen. The Airmen of the 52nd Fighter Wing got it right!  They named their own unique place on base the “Brick House” which includes game systems, an Internet Café, a myriad of hall games, projection TVs, sound and night club lighting systems and lots of finger foods. We wanted to duplicate this initiative throughout the command because the concept was so fresh and exciting.  Six months since the first meeting, Project Power Plant is now cruising at 140 knots at Aviano, Lakenheath, Mildenhall, Lajes, and Incirlik Air Bases with our Airmen at the helm establishing the facility activities and programs they want.

All of our programs are a way of reaching out to our people and are another mechanism for feedback. Our great USAFE team embraced the changes and transformed, leading to new processes, cross-talk among functional areas and greater sharing of best practices.

Thanks to all of you who continue to demonstrate that we are focused on getting the USAFE mission accomplished with courage, teamwork and a commitment to excellence.