JOINT BASE CHARLESTON S.C. –
Following a three-month trial period, the decision was made Dec. 8, 2014, for the 315th Airlift Wing to continue with one combined Unit Training Assembly weekend for the foreseeable future, with an unsupported alternate weekend.
This transition will be the first time the wing has conducted operations regularly through a single UTA since the height of the Global War on Terrorism. Historically, the 315th AW operated over two or three drill weekends, to keep up with mission requirements.
"At the conclusion of the trial period, wing leadership assessed the overall effectiveness, and based on the significant financial gains, and the manpower efficiencies created by combining our efforts, I made the final determination on keeping the wing at a single UTA. I believe that we can better meet our mission objectives and air mobility priorities with the strength of one combined team each month," said Col. James Fontanella, 315th AW commander.
Leading up to the trial period, which began Oct. 18th, a business case study was performed over 18 months to evaluate the possibility of a single UTA and the potential cost-savings and efficiencies that could be gained by this transition.
"Unit-by-unit assessments were conducted with leadership and members from across the wing. We studied the gaps between the current state and proposed future state and then an action plan was created for each unit with countermeasures to execute," said Maj. Kimberly Champagne, 315th AW process manager.
After an exhaustive study, the 315th AW identified substantial financial savings by converting to a single UTA construct. During the three-month trial period, the wing saved more than $300,000 in salary and per diem costs with personnel who will not have to support two UTAs per month. Also significant time savings is achieved by streamlining processes and operational tasks that were identified during the study.
Though there were initial setbacks to this transition, to include limited workspace at larger units such the Aerial Port Squadrons, and the potential for significant backlogs with flight physicals, the wing was able to overcome these challenges through a series of in-depth process improvements.
"When I was first told we were going to a combined UTA I thought, 'great'," said Chief Master Sgt. Deborah Cole, 38th APS senior air reserve technician and former member of the 81st APS. "We have all this experience and if we just take the two teams and intermingle, we are able to perform joint training together. By accomplishing this, we gain so much more knowledge and experience and it becomes a better training environment with the different units' perspectives on how we do business."
The Aerospace Medicine Squadron found similar benefits of the combined UTA, despite initial hurdles the unit had to address.
"There was a perception from members of the wing that the 315th Aerospace Medicine Squadron would not be able to accommodate the number of physicals anticipated during the joint UTA," said Senior Master Sgt. Jehad Karriem, superintendent of aeromedical services. "Our main issue was manpower, but we also had some equipment challenges. However, the combined UTA was the solution to the question as we addressed these items with training, and changes were made. We were able to reduce wait times for long-physicals from an average of six hours to just under three."
During the three-month trial period, other challenges were identified, to include parking, ease of getting through the gates during peak hours, lodging and dining. However, the wing held a number of hot-wash sessions to look at the issues identified, and discussed concrete courses of action to overcome any roadblocks that the single-UTA construct presented.
"Although we may face future challenges during this transition, I'm confident that we are equipped to handle them and to find ways of continuing to do business smarter in the future," said Fontanella.