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Maintenance leader champions innovation through recognition

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

“The world’s greatest Air Force – powered by Airmen, fueled by innovation.”

That sentence from the Air Force vision statement rings true at the 379th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, where Lt. Col. David Thompson, 379th EAMXS commander, created an award to recognize innovative Airmen within his unit.

“A good force multiplier is process improvement. I think most people want to do a good job and make it better than they found it … this is a way to really quantify saving time by doing smarter things,” said Thompson. “I give them credit, them being the technician that comes up with the idea, for all the time they saved.”

In order to select individuals who deserve acknowledgement, Thompson visits various units within his squadron to ask for innovative ideas.

“I always [ask] ‘what’s the job that you do most often and what’s the job that nobody likes?’” said Thompson. “If you can improve either one of those you’re going to save time and money or you’re going to make people smile and enjoy their job more. Both are wins.”

Tech. Sgt. Bradley Newcomb, 379th EAMXS crew chief, won the award in December 2018. He was chosen for an idea that changed the standard procedure of setting up and tearing down RC-135 Rivet Joint air carts twice daily to once a day.

 “I felt it was silly that we were doing double the work,” said Newcomb. “This saved a total of 480 man hours a month and has allowed us to get aircraft pre-flight done faster and given us more time to pre-check back-end systems for any boot-up/start up issues. This has bolstered on-time take offs and contributed our aircraft's total time on station.”

Newcomb said winning the award motivates him and others within his unit to seek better and more effective ways of operating.

“Even small ideas can have a big impact on the mission or quality of life,” he said. “This [award program] gives an incentive for Airmen to share their ideas.  Many may feel that their idea is not really worth being pushed up the chain of command. I underestimated the impact that my idea had and certainly did not expect to win.”

Thompson hopes that his recognition program can inspire more Airmen to revolutionize the squadron and streamline ways to better support U.S. Air Forces Central Command’s mission.

“I think there are more good ideas than I’ll ever hear about. I think there are more good things that happen than I’m ever going to know,” said Thompson. “My hope is that the more it’s advertised and celebrated, whether it’s a small success or huge success, [the more it] gets people excited.”