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Inspector General empowers commanders to evaluate mission readiness

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade
  • Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Many times when Airmen hear the term inspector general, they think someone has done something wrong, but ask a member of the Air Mobility Command IG team what his/her role is in enabling rapid global mobility, the response reflects quite the opposite.

The wing IG and the AMC IG team support commanders with evaluating their unit’s performances, verifying that they have a sound system in place to provide critical self-assessment, and validating their readiness to prepare units for their assigned mission.

The AMC IG team has the responsibility to evaluate 68 wings, of which 27 of them also undergo a Nuclear Operational Readiness Inspection because they support U.S. Strategic Command.

There are currently two types of inspections, the unit compliance inspection which takes place every two years for active duty units and approximately every four years for Air National Guard wings.  In addition, the AMC IG conducts NORI, approximately every four years.

“As AMC IG I actually don’t care about inspections because what Gen. Everhart and wing commanders need to know, is what their units are doing well or not doing well each and every day—not during inspections,” said Brig. Gen. James Jacobson, HQ AMC inspector general.

“I don’t want a wing to prepare for an inspection, we need a wing to ensure they have a system in place that provides commanders honest feedback on how ready they are, how effective they are and how compliant they are. At the end of the day, that unit will dispatch a young Airman, to deliver airpower for America. The AMC IG exist is to make sure that young Airman is successful in that task.”

 The headquarters IG team assists commanders in accessing the readiness of their organization through the use of the Air Force Inspection System and the complaints resolution process.

“You’re probably thinking ‘what do complaints have to do with mission readiness’,” said Jacobson. “If an Airman has a problem or a concern they have the absolute right to go to the inspector general to file a complaint. As long as an Airman has a concern, they will remain focused on that problem and it will detract from that individual Airman’s readiness.”

 The IG’s Complaint Resolution program is designed to assist Airmen in resolving their concerns and, if warranted, conduct investigations to evaluate these concerns.  Expedient, impartial, thorough reviews of complaints assists the commander and the Airman in maintaining readiness.  

In addition to complaints resolution, inspection and self-assessment programs are the other cornerstones of unit readiness.  Every IG team member’s job, whether they are at a wing or major command, is to assist unit commanders in evaluating their unit’s performance and provide honest feedback to leadership so they can make an informed decisions on how to prioritize tasks to enhance readiness.

The wing level IG office has a responsibility to help the wing commanders assess their wing’s ability to do their job by identifying what the wing is doing well, what they aren’t doing well and what to do about it.

The role of headquarters IG teams is to confirm or identify for the wing commander where they don’t have this process in place so they can make better decisions.

“The point of the current Air Force inspection process is for the MAJCOM IG to evaluate how the wing is operating when the MAJCOM IG is not there, and the crux of that begins in the wing IG shop,” said Jacobson. “When the AMC IG arrives on-station, its job is not to conduct the evaluation for them, but to evaluate the [wing] IG shop, wing inspection team and what they produced for the wing commander, to see if [the commander] is getting a full-assessment of the organization.”  

The AMC IG reviews MAJCOM staff assessments of the unit, its own inspection reports, survey data, and other unit-provided information.  In addition, it reviews the unit’s management internal control toolset.  Then it develops an inspection plan to validate and verify. The on-site team then executes the inspection plan, observing the performance of tasks, conducting interviews and evaluating on-site information. 

Once AMC IG completes their inspection of a wing, the findings are provided to the wing commander, said Jacobson. The AMC IG team also provides feedback about significant concerns or trends to AMC directorates because ultimately they own the policy and provide day-to-day feedback to the wings.

Moving forward, Jacobson said, “commanders should view the Wing IG and their inspection efforts as tools to assist the commander, but not as a program to be executed.  It should supplement their self-assessment program and the other tools they use to ready and assess their units.”

Jacobson contends that what commanders learn from wing and MAJCOM IG inspections are not ‘must dos.’ Commander must prioritize their unit’s manpower and resources to best execute their assigned missions and responsibilities.

“Higher headquarters guidance places an exceptional number of demands on commanders—they must prioritize their tasks and focus their unit’s efforts on the most important tasks and accept risk in the least important tasks,” Jacobson said.

The wing’s inspection efforts are designed to assist them with this task.  When they identify areas where the unit is not completing all mandated actions, they can seek waivers, shift resources from lower priority areas, or seek resources or manpower from higher headquarters.

To better assist wing inspector general and commanders, this past year the AMC IG has also evaluated their own methods, and is standardizing how the 90-Airmen team trains internally while also improving their pre-inspection assessment process and sustaining their current efforts to resolve complaints quicker. 

The Air Force does not grow inspector generals from an airman first class level, said Jacobson. Every Airman on the AMC IG team was a functional expert in their career field they grew up in and is hand-selected.

“Each AMC IG team member is essential to the analysis that supports each of the wings,” he said. “Our training program is designed to improve our inspectors’ critical-thinking skills and expand their understanding of a wing’s function beyond their functional expertise. The goal is to strengthen our training program and produce senior non-commissioned and field grade officers with an expanded array of skills to improve support to and assessments of the wings.  The bonus and long-term gain, is these SNCOs and officers are better prepared to lead when they return to leadership positions within a wing.”