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AFSO 21 duo visits Team Charleston

By Senior Airman Sam Hymas | 437th Airlift Wing Public Affairs | Feb. 23, 2007

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CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. — The head of Air Force Smart Operations 21 from the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force at the Pentagon visited Charleston AFB recently to meet with the base people putting AFSO 21 into action. 

Brig. Gen S. Taco Gilbert III and Dr. Ron Ritter, AFSO 21 special assistant to the secretary of the Air Force, visited with Team Charleston Feb. 16 to meet with senior leaders to discuss what they can do to support AFSO 21 and to talk to Airmen taking part in process improvement teams participating in Lean initiatives here.
General Gilbert and Dr. Ritter were given briefings from members of the 437th Medical Group, 437th Aerial Port Squadron, 437th Maintenance Group and the 437th Operations Group on AFSO 21 initiatives that have been completed and that are ongoing. 

AFSO 21 is a tool Airmen can use to break down each step of a work process and seek out areas of waste, or non-value added work. After the process is dissected, Airmen and trained AFSO 21 experts work together to brainstorm ways to eliminate inefficiencies. 

"We want to reduce the things we do that do not add value," said General Gilbert.
AFSO 21 tackles a common gripe, "Why do we do it this way?" It empowers workers by providing them a proven method to figure out how to modify their processes to work more efficiently for both them and the customer. 

Dr. Ritter recognized that real change needs to be embraced by everyone, not just leadership. 

"AFSO 21, and the benefits it provides, will not happen because of us at the Pentagon," he said. "It will happen because Airmen on the front lines will make it happen. We're just here for support." 

He also said that change is not easy. 

"The U.S. Air Force is the best. We're the best at what we do," said Dr. Ritter. "Improving when you're already the best is very hard to do." 

Airman Krystopher Johnson, 437th Maintenance Squadron crew chief who went through the maintenance group's new phase plus two crew chief training program, is convinced that AFSO 21 is worth the effort. 

Airman Johnson gave a short briefing to General Gilbert and Dr. Ritter on the phase plus two program and so impressed them that they invited him to the Pentagon to brief Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney McKinley. 

"It was enlightening and rewarding," said Airman Johnson. "I love being around people who have been in the Air Force a long time. To be handpicked to give this speech was quite an opportunity." 

Airman Johnson wasn't the only person at Charleston that impressed General Gilbert and Dr. Ritter. 

"Charleston Air Force Base has the most sophisticated, mature AFSO 21 program in the Air Force." General Gilbert said. 

AFSO 21 and Lean concepts will make an impact on the Air Force for many years to come. 

"We have found that even skeptics, after they have participated in an AFSO 21 event, come away convinced there is real possibility here, that there was a return on investment and that they had an impact," said General Gilbert. "AFSO 21 is about a mindset for the 21st century. This is not a short-term program -- it is a program to fundamentally change the culture of the Air Force for the long haul."