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NEWS | Sept. 16, 2016

Quality assurance: where experience meets perspective

By 2nd Lt. Allison Egan Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

While the 437th Airlift Wing’s mission is to deliver safe, precise and reliable airlift around the world, their innovative attitude distinguishes them as one of a kind.


With a breadth of experience, the liaison between the active duty and reserve units in the Quality Assurance (QA) group harbors a unique setting for development and improvement.


Their diversity is a strength in itself. The team is comprised of reservists, active duty airmen, Air Reserve technicians and inspectors from seven Air Force Specialty Codes. Staffed with experts from the maintenance career field, QA conducts four major inspections each month. On duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, QA inspects everything ranging from Personnel Evaluations, Quality Verification Inspections, Management Inspection and Special Inspections.


To support operational readiness, the QA team created a Quality Validation matrix which has been recognized as a “Strength” by the AMC IG team. In an effort to cut down the number of inspections, the matrix provides a standard for reliable and efficient service.


“We evaluate the inspections we do each month and rate them for quality, what we are looking at, how complex the task is, how important that task is to the mission and how well we did it,” said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Stone QA superintendent. 


Quality Assurance also uses the grading system for their own inspectors. With a current average of 475 inspections a month, the QA group’s inspection system reflects the productivity of the people involved. 


“Previously we were doing a lot of inspections, over 550 a month, and they just weren’t enough. We were turning into quantity assurance not quality assurance,” said Stone. “People weren’t necessarily looking at the right stuff…so we figured out a way to grade ourselves.”


Some of the difficulties of the QA job however, arise from misconceptions on a more personal level.


“When you operate in a business where your success is predicated on somebody else’s failure, sometimes it can be difficult to have good relationships,” said Stone. “A lot of people think the intent of QA is to be a disciplinary tool or to get people in trouble for not complying with guidance, and that’s really not what we do. What we’re trying to do is present a picture to the commander of the health, compliance and safe accomplishment of aircraft maintenance in his group.”


Working in QA additionally offers a progressive experience.


“The worst part of the job is failing people,” said Staff Sgt. Alexander Ewing, Aerospace Ground Equipment inspector.

However, through the QA’s shadow program, Airmen have the opportunity to learn about the inspection process.


Airmen in the grades of senior airman to staff sergeant can spend a week in QA learning about the system and its functions. “It was an eye opener when I came over [to the QA side]. People see that it’s real easy to find a mistake sometimes and that we aren’t looking to fail anyone on purpose.”


With programs like Quality Assurance in place, the 437th ensures that aircraft and military vehicles remain in safe working condition for the Joint Base Charleston mission.  


In April of 2016, the AFRC named the 437th as the Best Associate Unit in the QA section for its Active Duty and Reservist unit cohesion.