TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — The status quo of doing business as usual is not enough anymore.
One could say that is a common refrain to describe Airmen wanting to propose changes within their organizations, especially as Air Force leaders lean toward squadron innovation for the service’s future.
The Air Force Innovation Handbook states that “successful innovative efforts start with a problem and an idea on how to solve that problem,” and for one Airman, he was committed to success.
Senior Airman Isaiah Hammond, 60th Air Mobility Wing Command Post emergency actions controller, had an issue with the way command post controllers initiated checklist procedures. He felt the current procedures were inefficient, outdated and a waste of paper.
“I don’t like to see paper being wasted,” said Hammond. “We were printing a ton of checklists and wasting a ton of paper on things that eventually were shredded.”
He described the amount of printing being done as “redundant,” and if you’ve ever worked in an office, you can probably relate.
Controllers printed checklists, wrote notes on it, and later reprinted the checklist to rewrite their notes for a legible copy.
Or they’ll retrieve a plastic sleeve-protected checklist from a 4-inch-thick binder, annotate their notes with a dry-erase marker, then reprint the checklist again to rewrite their notes.
Hammond thought to himself, “We can do this better.” His command post team agreed and decided to apply for Squadron Innovation Funds—a financial resource from the Air Force allotted to squadron-level innovation initiatives—to procure electronic tablets for the purpose of digitizing their checklist procedures while cutting most, if not all, the paper involved.
The command post applied for SIF in June and was approved by the end of the month. They bought six tablets and received them in late July.
Hammond took the lead on digitizing and implementing the paperless process. During the month of August, he was able to take 136 task checklists that were originally Microsoft Word documents, convert them into PDF files, transfer them to the tablets and build the file retrieval system.
“Innovation is key in today’s Air Force,” said Master Sgt. Elizabeth Hauprich, 60th AMW Command Post noncommissioned officer in charge of command and control operations, echoing Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. “Everybody has an idea, but it’s all about putting that idea into motion, and that’s what we did here. Hammond allowed us to, one, put the (tablets) into motion and two, to effectively accomplish the mission by saving paper and doing it quickly.”
Hammond expressed how important this new time-saving process is as a “quality-of-life improvement” that cut seconds off for controllers at their console, but he also took on this paperless endeavor for a more personal reason.
“Those seconds add up throughout the day,” he said. “Seconds save lives.”
And no scenario exemplifies this as clearly as an active shooter incident on base, Hammond said.
“Those seconds that you saved to get the giant voice and say, ‘lockdown,’ quicker if there’s an active shooter—that, could stop somebody from opening their door to step outside,” said Hammond.
Ultimately, it’s about acting as quickly as possible to gather the correct information to notify the base so leadership can make quick decisions.
This process improves that flow of communication, Hammond explained.
“It starts with us running the checklist, so this is very important,” he said. “To the people who are responding, to the people who are making the notifications, that’s a world of difference, trying to get there just a little bit faster.”
To ensure the command post team adjusts adequately to the new processes, the checklists would be implemented in stages, said Hauprich. The command post has two sets of primary checklists from which they incorporate into their day-to-day operations, controller basic checklists (CBC) and quick reaction checklists (QRC).
Hauprich said they officially implemented their CBCs in October and plan to implement the QRCs in November.
Hammond will take note of how he and his team interact with the tablets throughout the implementation period, ensuring they benefit as much as possible from the paperless process and adjust along the way. Final implementation is expected to happen in December.
In line with new priorities recently announced by Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, Air Mobility Command commander, this process pushes Airmen to become more digitally adept and “enable the warfighter and the command to operate faster, smarter and to make better-informed decisions.”