By Airman Kevin E. Sommer Giron
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The 19th Maintenance Squadron munitions flight was awarded a best practice benchmark approved by Air Mobility Command during the 2015 Unit Effectiveness Inspection for innovating a faster way to build aircraft countermeasures, or chaff and flare decoys.
Chaff and flare decoys are aerial countermeasures used by aircraft to defeat radar-guided and infrared homing missiles. Currently the 19th MXS munitions flight is accountable for more than 60,000 chaff and flare valued in the millions.
The new process entails using a rubber stamp to maintain accountability, instead of handwriting weapon stock numbers on each decoy. This practice came about due to the different writing speeds of personnel and occasional illegibility of their handwriting.
Numerous speed tests were conducted by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dustin Blackwell, 19th MXS Stockpile Surveillance crew chief, and his team. Senior Airman Angela Barbour, 19th MXS munitions inspector, implemented her knowledge gained through the Green Belt program to evaluate and document the entire process.
“When we did a side-by-side comparison of the two processes, we were able to see that the stamp itself was significantly faster at documenting numbers rather than handwriting them,” Blackwell said.
The team’s forward thinking ultimately increased productivity by reducing countermeasure build times by 50 percent. The munitions flight can now do five flare sticks in the time it would take to do one.
“It goes to show that even a simple task that has been performed since the Vietnam War can still be improved upon when Airmen are given the power to ask questions and implement changes. Our team’s actions won’t just benefit us; it will benefit the entire command.” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jeffrey Iler, 19th MXS munitions flight accountable systems officer.
This practice set a precedent and is evident by the approval from the AMC Inspector General Office. The command has one year to implement this innovative process into policy for 16 installations supporting nine different airframes. AMC also shared this procedure with other commands as an option for them to use.
“It’s awesome the recognition the Airmen are getting from the MAJCOM for the hard work that they do here on a day to day basis,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Anthony Buff, 19th MXS munitions flight chief. “It’s the Airmen and noncommissioned officer’s thinking outside the box that really benefits everyone.”