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Six S program clears 40 tons of material

“The Cave,” a storage area in Bldg. 381 at Travis, is seen in January before a Six S project to clean the facility. More than 40 tons of materials were removed from the crowded space. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“The Cave,” a storage area in Bldg. 381 at Travis, is seen in January before a Six S project to clean the facility. More than 40 tons of materials were removed from the crowded space. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“The Cave,” a storage area in Bldg. 381 at Travis Air Force Base, is seen in February following a Six S project to clean the facility. About 20 individuals spent a total of 600-plus hours removing materials from the overcrowded storage room. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“The Cave,” a storage area in Bldg. 381 at Travis Air Force Base, is seen in February following a Six S project to clean the facility. About 20 individuals spent a total of 600-plus hours removing materials from the overcrowded storage room. (U.S. Air Force photo)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A combined effort between the 615th Contingency Response Wing and the 60th Air Mobility Wing recently cleared more than 40 tons of material from a storage room at Travis. 

The cleanup is part of the Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century office's Six S program, a streamlined means to complete such a massive project. 

During the last 20 years, the 3,716-square-foot area known as "The Cave" located in Bldg. 381, was a repository for everything -- book shelves, obsolete desks, chairs, refrigerators, end tables, couches and more. 

Those are just some of the ordinary materials. Among some of the zanier items remaining Feb. 17 when cleaning was nearing its close were a box of holiday lights, a collection of garden hoses and a handful of shovels. The space also had previously stored a 52-inch television as well as an empty propane grill. 

"This stuff accumulated through decades," said Steve Oien, a civilian in the Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century office, who helped spearhead the project. 

The AFSO 21 office's Six S program was the guideline used for the cleanup.
In the first step, the "sorting" phase, items were grouped based on similarity and usefulness. This readied items for the second phase, "set in order," when the materials found their new places, be it the dumpster or a new location. Third comes "shine," when the area is cleaned. 

The final three steps regard maintaining the changes. The fourth is to "standardize," which is underway, giving the remaining items a new, clearly marked place. Five is "sustain," which is keeping the process going and finding ways to do so. Finally is "safety," what Mr. Oien called "the key to everything." 

Regarding maintenance, facility managers have planned monthly inspections to ensure the area does not deteriorate to its previous condition. 

Among the items selected for keeping during the sorting stage are scheduled for timely use during the upcoming Operational Readiness Inspection later this year. 

Initially used to house obsolete office desktops when the hospital moved to David Grant Medical Center on the opposite side of the base in 1989, The Cave grew into a black hole for any unwanted goods. Rooms inside of it were filled from floor to ceiling with boxes of paper. 

"This one was overflowing with junk," said Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper, 60th AMW safety chief, as he opened the door to one of the rooms. Behind him, Mr. Oien's voice added that it was from "wall to door." 

The rooms full of paper were sorted before many of them wound up going through a massive shredder, enough for six 30-gallon drums of shredded personal and financial records. Aside from identity theft concerns about many of the documents disclosing private information such as Social Security numbers, Colonel Cooper noted the immense fire hazard the paper stash once represented. 

The quantity and nature of the material hauled out is at once bizarre and staggering. Among the more than 80,000 pounds of junk: eight metal lockers, eight desks, more than 80 chairs, 14 projector stands, two couches, two end tables, two refrigerators, a credenza, the aforementioned television and propane grill. 

But it wasn't all trash. Five tons of recyclable steel and aluminum were recovered.
In total, nearly 50 percent of the area was recovered, according to Lt. Col. Don Ryan, chief of safety for the 615th CRW. 

Colonel Cooper called the tidying a "remarkable difference." 

"You couldn't push a cart through here before," he said. "Now when someone comes down for parts, they're not going to be climbing over stuff to get to it." 

About 20 individuals from the 615th and the 60th participated in the cleanup, combining for more than 600 hours of labor on the project. 

The space will continue to serve as a storage area, though the plan to keep it in a more organized fashion is in place. Monthly inspections are planned and there are plans to split the area into different sections using cages.

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