Trading places: Minot chosen as test base for crew swaps

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By Airman 1st Class Apryl Hall, Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs / Published August 27, 2014

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. (AFNS) --

In order to implement new initiatives stemming from the Force Improvement Program, Minot Air Force Base was chosen as the test bed for two modifications currently underway within the missile community.

The first modification includes F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming and Malmstrom AFB, Montana in the test phase, Task Force 214 and 20th Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein directed a crew swap, entailing missileers from all three bases trading places for three months.

"As much as possible it was a one-for-one crew swap," said Lt. Col. David Rickards, the 91st Operations Group deputy group commander. "The idea is that the folks embedding with us for 90 days would be able to experience at the ground level some of the changes and initiatives we're implementing as part of the Force Improvement Program."

Minot AFB received four individuals from Malmstrom AFB's 341st Operations Group and three from F.E. Warren AFB's 90th Operations Group. Seven Airmen from Minot AFB were sent to fill their places.

"We sent similar people based on background, certifications and abilities," Rickards said. "One of the goals by sending crews from Malmstrom and F.E. Warren to Minot, and for us to reciprocate those crews back to those two wings, is to ensure the objectivity of the results, standardization across the operations groups and robust cross talk."

The two FIP modifications, referred to as Block 0 and Block 10, focus on changes to the organization of the operations group, crew training and scheduling.

A major change for training is in the area of testing. Previously, crew members were required to take recertification tests monthly. With the new initiatives they will test quarterly while adding a second simulator session each month to hone their proficiency. The purpose of the changes is to emphasize hands-on training and empower crew commanders to be responsible for the proficiency of their crew.

"I think a lot of the problems in the missile world have been self-inflicted," said Capt. Adam Ross, a 341st Operations Support Squadron missile combat crew instructor. "So let's think about this logically, be smarter and come to a better way of how we operate."

The seven Airmen sent to Minot for the test phase were chosen by their commanders. Although there is no formal documentation process required during their time at Minot AFB, they are responsible for relaying information back to their commands as the changes progress.

"They brought people from other bases to get different perspectives and make sure it jives with our bases," Ross said. "We're just going to work through the bugs here first."

For Ross, who is working with the 742nd Missile Squadron while here, being able to participate in the implementation process is exciting, he said.

"Changes are coming for the right reasons, and I wanted to be a part of that," Ross said. "I hope to inject positively where I can, provide that critical feedback and hopefully make a better system for everyone else later on."

The crew swap, which runs until the end of October, is a first step in using the FIP to produce necessary changes within Air Force Global Strike Command units. By involving all three missile bases in the initiation process, the goal is to make the transition smooth and do so as a team.

"It's always good to see how another team works," Rickards said. "We can learn at the grassroots level and not just get this from the outside in. We'll have someone who experienced it, really lived it and breathed it for three months."

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