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103rd’s culture of self-assessment rated ‘Highly Effective’

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Tamara Dabney,
  • 103rd Airlift Wing

EAST GRANBY, Conn. – At the 103rd Airlift Wing, Airmen at every level participate in the wing’s continuous self-assessment process. This culture of self-assessment led to the unit receiving an overall grade of Highly Effective, the highest grade possible, at the end of its Headquarters Air Mobility Command Unit Effectiveness Inspection (UEI) cycle in 2021.

The UEI cycle covered a period from Sept. 18, 2015, to Sept. 22, 2021, during which the 103rd executed airlift missions with eight C-130 aircraft to provide cargo and personnel transport. Operations during this period included hurricane relief efforts in 2017, 2018 and 2020, COVID-19 response, and Operation Capitol Response.

During the cycle, the 103rd also transitioned from the C-130H1 to the C-130H3 aircraft and replaced legacy propeller controls with electronic valve housings. The changes, though challenging, did not hinder the unit’s ability to maintain operations and complete all federal and state tasks.

The UEI has four major graded areas (MGAs): managing resources, improving the unit, leading people, and executing the mission. It is important for units to continually focus on all the MGAs, said Maj. Christopher Smorol, installation inspector general.

“A lot of wings will say, ‘We get the job done,’” said Smorol, a former deputy team chief for the AMC IG team. “Well, that’s just one of the major graded areas — executing the mission. You also need to make sure you’re mentoring people, taking care of the resources that were given by the taxpayers, and that you’re valuing your Airmen’s time and making sure that they have what they need to get the job done. So there’s a lot more to it than just getting the job done. It’s the most important piece, but if you don’t do those other things, it’s going to be really hard to execute the mission.”

The 103rd was graded Highly Effective in managing resources, improving the unit and executing the mission. In the fourth MGA, leading people, it was rated Effective.

The Commander’s Inspection Program (CCIP) is the wing commander’s interpretation of the Air Force Inspection Program. It is through the CCIP that Col. Stephen Gwinn, 103rd Airlift Wing commander, was able to determine the accuracy of self-assessment programs in the 103rd. The effectiveness of Gwinn’s CCIP can be attributed to 103rd members’ knowledge of the CCIP and their willingness to execute the program, said Smorol.

“I was really impressed with the culture of self-assessment, and the way the wing has embraced the Air Force inspection system as a whole,” said Smorol. “From the commanders, all the way down to the NCOs, members were able to speak to the major graded areas. They understood the value of [the CCIP] because it’s providing information to the commander to be able to make decisions and help them out where they’re not in compliance.”

According to Senior Master Sgt. Christina Glasper, inspector general senior enlisted leader, who helped build the program, the key was to allow it to evolve to be compliant with changing regulations.

“We just built the program around the regulation, and we kept doing that,” said Glasper. “With every iteration of the regulation, we changed our processes and our programs to match, so we were never missing anything in the regulation. It showed because we got the highest grade they’ve given in AMC since 2013.”

Smorol agreed and added that members of the 103rd were honest and forthcoming about compliance issues, which also contributed to program success.

“The biggest thing to me was the ability to take an honest look at ourselves and say, ‘You know, we’re not doing this, and here’s why,’” said Smorol. “I think the toughest part for a lot of wings is to break the mentality of not calling themselves out. That ability to critically self-assess and call it like it is the biggest difference. If you have that instilled in your wing, then everything else is going to take care of itself. That, I think, is a large part of why we ended up doing so well.”

Since earning the top overall grade on the UEI, members of the 103rd IG section have assisted other units.

“We’ve actually been sent [messages] from over 20 different bases,” said Glasper. “We’re assisting with building their CCIPs. It’s not just for the [inspection]; it’s actually for their commander’s program overall.”

Smorol feels proud of the work the 103rd did leading up to the inspection. However, he does not want members of the unit to become complacent.

“It’s easy to fall into that trap of, ‘OK, we’re great, we know it now, we got validated that we’re amazing, so what we’re doing is fine,’” said Smorol. “That’s simply not true. We always need to be looking at ourselves and seeing how we can do things better, which I think we’ve been doing, and I imagine we will continue to do. I feel very proud of the wing.”