By Staff Sgt. Don Branum, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 29, 2008
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq --
The commander of the Air Force Personnel Center discussed how her agency continues to improve its support of deployed Airmen during a visit here Aug. 27.
AFPC is streamlining how it tracks deployments and reexamining how it balances deployments with assignments and training, said Maj. Gen. K.C. McClain, who toured Camp Bucca, Iraq, and two other locations in Southwest Asia prior to arriving at Joint Base Balad.
A major step in this evolution came through moving the Air and Space Expeditionary Force Center, formerly at Langley Air Force Base, Va., under AFPC, which is headquartered at Randolph AFB, Texas.
"We're just finishing the merger of the AEF Center with AFPC, and I think that's going to pay dividends for all of our deployed Airmen," she said. "What we had before the merger was two different organizations taking actions in stovepipes. The AEF Center may have been working a deployment, and AFPC may have been working an assignment, and the individual got hit with both of them. Now, by having the two together, we can incorporate the AEF cycle into day-to-day personnel actions."
Under the merger, the AEF Center became the Directorate of AEF Operations. The merger allows for better visibility on Airmen availability by synchronizing deployment cycles with permanent change of station moves and training requirements, General McClain said.
"For instance, the NCO Retraining Program release will be vetted through the AEF cycle in the future to ensure Airmen aren't in retraining during their assigned AEF rotation," she said.
AFPC will also begin tracking deployments by first movement rather than required delivery dates.
"We had an individual who, because of a series of reclama actions, received one week's notice to go to three months of training before a deployment," General McClain said. "Our old metrics showed 90 days' notice because he didn't have to be in the (U.S. Central Command area of responsibility) until 90 days later ... when, in fact, he had one week's notice to get to training."
Tracking deployments by first movement will create a more accurate picture of how much notice a person receives before he deploys, allowing AFPC to notify Airmen and their families sooner, said Chief Master Sgt. Andy Kaiser, AFPC's command chief.
"We have a relentless pursuit of perfection," Chief Kaiser said. "If we have one short-notice tasking ... that's one too many. We're passionate about meeting our goal of reducing short-notice taskings to zero."
Airmen will still receive short-notice taskings when someone who is matched against a tasking injures himself and can no longer deploy, General McClain said, "but we want to make sure our processes in working these taskings isn't responsible for the delay in notification."
AFPC has also empowered Airmen to manage their own personnel data through services like the virtual MPF and the Air Force Contact Center.
"Anytime that you put something on the Web, it obviously helps deployed Airmen, because they can then get access to their records at any time," the general said. "We're trying to give individuals control of their personnel business, just like many banking companies are giving us control over our finances. You can go online and check out your bank account ... you can access it any day and at any hour of the day. That's what we're doing with the personnel services. One of our goals is to give Airmen more control of their personnel actions."
The AFCC can walk Airmen through Web-based applications as well as answer many of their personnel-related questions.
"The AFCC is open 24/7, so you can call and ask questions," General McClain said. "If they can't answer it, they will get you to the subject matter experts who can."
The Web-based promotion release system has also proven useful to deployed warfighters, Chief Kaiser said.
"With the Web-based system, Airmen don't have to wonder if the commander will come around," he said. "Everyone knows at the same time whether they've been selected for promotion, and commanders still congratulate their people." The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing recognized its staff sergeant selectees during a ceremony at Town Hall here Aug. 21, the day after the staff sergeant results were released.
General McClain said she seeks feedback on the Web-based systems and any other ideas from Airmen that can improve personnel processes.
"You put the programs out there, and you think you've got them worked and that they make sense ... and then your customers start using them and say that it doesn't work, or it doesn't make sense," she said. "So we're always soliciting feedback, and that's one of the reasons I'm on this trip."
Airmen who spoke with General McClain during her visits here and to other bases in the AOR have given her points that she intends to address when she returns to AFPC, she said. One issue she will examine is special experience identifiers, or SEIs, which the Air Force uses to identify people with critical skill sets within certain career fields. Another is short tour credit, which Airmen currently receive for serving 181 consecutive days or more in locations identified as hostile fire or imminent danger pay areas.
A third issue involves receiving personnel information from home station that PERSCO offices need in the AOR. AFPC is working with U.S. Air Forces Central's Directorate of Manpower and Personnel to create a solution, General McClain said.
"We've got a great A1 staff (in the AOR) led by Lt. Col. Paul Valenzuela, and a great AFCENT/A1 staff (at Shaw AFB, S.C.,) led by Col. Ron Barnes," she said. "We are all joined together as a team to work the issues. Our goal is always to let the home team work it, and if they can't, they know to push it up to AFPC. We're all committed to making all personnel processes better.
"It's been a very productive trip," she added. "A lot of people are saying complimentary things, so now, let's move it to the next level. No one out there is saying that the system's egregiously broken -- I think there are some out there who feel it can be better, but I think on the whole, our customers are saying, 'It's working; now let's make some refinements.' I've been pleased about that, and I'm learning about opportunities to refine how we get the right people in the right place with the right skills at the right time."
The general thanked her home-station unit deployment managers, Senior Master Sgt. Timothy Melville and Tech. Sgt. Shauna Walker, for setting up her first trip to the AOR since she became AFPC commander in January.
"We deploy a lot of the individual augmentation taskings out of AFPC, and Sergeant Melville and Sergeant Walker hand walk people through the process," she said. "Good UDMs are worth their weight in gold."