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NEWS | Jan. 29, 2013

Gearing up for the CUI

By Col. James Fontanella 315th Airlift Wing commander

Most of you are aware that the Joint Base Charleston team is preparing for an upcoming Consolidated Unit Inspection, or CUI. The road to success began months ago, and our preparation efforts will continue until we are visited by the evaluation team in December 2013.

Why is there another inspection after all three wings successfully completed our recent Operational Readiness Inspection last year? I was not yet assigned to the 315th Airlift Wing when Team Charleston conducted its last ORI, but I am quite aware of all the hard work each of you contributed in that success. Air Force leadership also knows how professional the men and women who make up JB Charleston are. The updated inspection cycle enables a major inspection every two years, alternating between the operational look and the compliance aspect. The CUI is the other tool our major commands use to ensure we remain among the best at what we do, and we should expect one every four years.

There is much to do to ensure success again. Being prepared means we all have taken responsibility for and understand our programs and processes, and have all our program documentation ready to present.

Here are a few things we should focus on to ensure our success:

- Be proactive. Each and every one of you is vital to our team's success. Everyone's preparation will be different depending on your job or responsibility, but everyone has a role.

- Understand the grading criteria. Getting an "outstanding" is process oriented and not based on "zero findings." Know the standard and work toward it with intention.

- Use the checklists. The Management Internal Control Toolset provides checklists that can set you on the right path for the CUI. The MICT is a tool to track self-inspections but is not a substitute for compliance itself. Inspectors will evaluate unit programs for compliance, not how program managers completed checklists in MICT.

- Conduct regular preparation meetings. Unit leadership, executive steering groups and working groups should meet frequently with their teams to carry out the Compliance Preparation Plan and set suspense dates for corrective actions. When deadlines and suspense are set, stick to them and hold individuals accountable if they don't meet the set requirements. Integrating and synchronizing unit compliance activities will ultimately give our three wings more time to focus on keeping our Airmen mission-ready.

Understand the Wing Inspection Program definitions:

· Critical finding: Prevents the mission from happening.
· Non-critical finding: Doesn't prevent the mission from happening, but has an effect on it.
· Information finding: No impact to mission.
· Limiting factor: A factor or condition that, either temporarily or permanently, impedes mission success.
· Special interest item: A tool to focus management attention, gather data and assess the status of specific programs and conditions in the field.
· Common core compliance area: Key processes, procedures or requirements based on bylaw requirements, executive orders, DOD directives, Air Force or major command instructions.

- Monitor self-inspections closely. An outstanding rating can be achieved only when the unit complies with nearly every inspectable item. Double check each item before completing it on the self-inspection checklist. There can be no repeat write-ups on items within our control from previous inspections.

- Conduct mock interviews to help everyone prepare. When we verbalize answers and talk about our programs, it gives us increased confidence as we approach the inspection. Speak confidently with a positive attitude, and with a full understanding of the topic. Don't ramble, but ensure to answer evaluators' questions thoroughly.

- Know your strong programs as well as weak ones. Talk up programs you are proud of. If a program is weak, demonstrate what you are doing to bring it up to speed. Be able to describe your part in a program or process and know something about all other parts of it.

- Success is not necessarily fixing every discrepancy, but having a working process to identify and track findings.

- Always use customs and courtesies. Looking and being professional goes a long way toward success, and a positive attitude is essential.

- If an inspector finds something you don't agree with, explain your opinion, without appearing argumentative, with your reference or source document at the ready. Be confident in what you relay to them and inform your supervisor immediately afterward.

- Have all documentation ready. The inspectors will look for documentation to verify checklist items are complied with. Standardizing binders with tabbed content represents a unit's pride and professionalism.

- If an inspector asks a question to which you don't know the answer - do not guess. Tell them you don't know the exact answer, but you know where to find it and you will get back to them. If they ask a question, they most likely already know the answer.

Each one of you is key to Team Charleston's success. The inspectors are interested in talking to you, and each person holds some piece of the puzzle that will ensure 100 percent compliance. By working together, and preparing thoroughly and progressively, we can continue the long line of brilliant performance on JB Charleston's CUI in December!