By Staff Sgt. Jacob Barreiro
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Nearly a year ago, the 19th Operations Group at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., truncated their fly-week from five days to four, leaving one day a week explicitly dedicated to training. Group leaders said the switch has led to increased training rates and improved deployment readiness, while saving taxpayer dollars.
Lt. Col. Toby Sernel, 19th OG deputy commander, said the change came about after examining the efficiency of the group’s five-day flight week.
“What we saw with the five-day fly week, was that … our flying and training was not as efficient as it could be,” said Sernel.
The group determined that with a little flexibility they could simultaneously improve their training and make more efficient use of their flying hours, and thus the four-day fly week, with every Friday dedicated to training, was born.
“What we wanted to do was come up with a way to improve our deployment readiness,” said Sernel. “We wanted to improve the training that our C-130 members were getting at our four flying squadrons here.”
Previously the 19th OG dedicated just one day to training a quarter, which led to bloated schedules and a dearth of time, said Sernel.
“They (the old 19th OG’s training days) were jam-packed with stuff,” he said. “Maybe we got 30 minutes to do two hours of training on top of 30 minutes to do another four-hour training block. It really wasn’t very efficient or effective.”
Allowing for a training day every Friday has led to more relevant, focused and thorough training for the 19th OG, from the group level to the squadron level down to the individual, said Sernel.
“We’ve increased training 12 to 14 fold of what we had before,” he said. “The benefits extend to everyone throughout the group.”
While more time for training and interaction at a ground level is a good thing for Airmen and their supervisors, decreasing the flight week from five to four days means packing what was previously five days of work into four. To execute this plan required innovation and focused planning, and it’s a challenge the 19th OG met, said Sernel.
“What we did was pack five days worth of flying into four days,” he said. “To do this we had to focus on certain events on certain days. In a lot of ways this made us improve our planning because a four-day fly week requires greater focus and planning at the group and squadron level.”
After nearly a year of flying one less day a week, Sernel said he thinks the Airmen of the 19th OG are even better prepared to go to war than they were before, while saving time and money.
“We’re getting the same, if not more focused, training in those four days,” he said. “Our crews are more prepared for CENTCOM AOR now than they were a year ago. We’ve saved 640 flight hours in calendar year 2012. We’re doing what we can to make more effective and efficient use of our flying training hours; those are expensive hours.”
Sernel said the 19th OG typically completed 95 percent of their training requirements in years past. From July - Dec 2012 the group produced a 98 percent completion rate. He credits this to increased focus in training.
“We’re getting more precise, more focused, more realistic training on par with previous year’s completion rates in four days,” said Sernel. “That’s a good thing.”
The benefits from the four-day fly week extend from the top down, said Sernel. 19th OG Airmen, at the group and squadron level, are getting more time for professional development. Another added bonus is the group is able to maximize the use of the flight simulators on base, a move that allows flyers to log realistic training while saving taxpayer dollars.
While the move to a four-day fly week has benefited the 19th OG immensely, Sernel said the innovative program extends benefits to other groups on base as well.
“The Maintenance Group and the Mission Support Group reap benefits,” he said. “They have more time to take care of training, more time to take care of airplanes. They have more time to focus on what they need to do on that day.”
More time for training, improved efficiency of mission and training time, and helping their Airmen improve their careers is what the move was all about, said Sernel, and nearly a year into the switch, the plan appears to be working.
“There are benefits at all levels,” he said. “Commanders get more time with their people. Supervisors get more time with their flights, whether they’re loadmasters, or pilots or (Aircrew Flight Equipment) technicians. There are a lot of support agencies in the ops group that get time with their supervisors they wouldn’t get every week if we flew five days a week. By taking a break, I think everyone would say it’s a good thing to get more time with their leadership, getting more time to do what we call unit maintenance.”