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Best practices: leveraging assets to create solutions

655th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group 14th Intelligence Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Ben Smallwood presents Senior Airman Henson with a "Superior Performer" award at a leadership conference in San Antonio, Texas, July 25, 2018.

655th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group 14th Intelligence Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Ben Smallwood presents Senior Airman Henson with a "Superior Performer" award at a leadership conference in San Antonio, Texas, July 25, 2018. Henson received the honor in recognition of her instrumental efforts which enabled the 14 IS to achieve a rating of "Highly Effective" in a 2018 Unit Inspection. She is the most junior ranking member of the 655 ISRG to ever receive this recognition. (Courtesy photo)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- The 655th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group presented the 14th Intelligence Squadron its “Best Practices” award for 2018 during a leadership conference in San Antonio, Texas, July 25-27, 2018.

The recognition comes mainly on the efforts of the 14th IS Command Support Staff, namely non-commissioned officer in charge Tech. Sgt. Jennings and administrative apprentice Senior Airman Henson, for rectifying unit deficiencies identified in a 2016 Unit Inspection.

As an instrument of the Commander’s Inspection Program, UI’s attempt to validate and verify the effectiveness of a units organizational processes through four major graded areas: Managing Resources, Leading People, Improving the Unit, and Executing the Mission. These inspections help commanders identify superior methods and innovative practices that contribute to optimal performance, as well as noting areas that need improvement.

Though the 14th IS earned an overall grade of “Effective” in 2016 with only and handful of deficiencies, most of them classified as “Minor,” Jennings knew he needed to find a better way of managing some programs; in particular the evaluations, awards and decorations, the appointment letter and the unit privacy program and records management process.

According to Jennings, the deficiencies occurred “because our tracking and management processes weren’t as efficient as they could have been.”

Like many Reserve units, the 14 IS was short on manpower. Jennings was unable to correct the deficiencies himself. He needed assistance. That’s when the decision was made to bring in Henson, who had just returned from basic training. She was scheduled to return to the 445th Airlift Wing’s Developmental Training Flight, an Air Force Reserve program designed to prepare future Airmen, prior to reporting to her technical training school. However, the 14 IS Commander, Lt. Col. Ben Smallwood, and Jennings insisted that Henson be permitted to report to the unit.

“We needed Henson,” Jennings said.

Despite not having been to technical training, Henson had a wealth of knowledge acquired from years of working in the corporate sector. (Incidentally, skill sets gained from civilian experience is a defining characteristic and notable advantage common to Reserve Citizen Airmen). She used that knowledge to help streamline the tracking and management processes of the previously deficient programs and made them more efficient.

“That’s the biggest improvement,” Henson said. “We were able to identify ways to make the process easier to complete sooner and more accurately. Time management is extremely important in the CSS.”

In six-month’s time, Henson’s efforts enabled the 14 IS to earn the 2018 UI top rating of “Highly Effective” in the MGA’s that previously had the most deficiencies; they also earned her the award of “superior performer” as an Airman 1st Class. Never before had this honor been bestowed on such a junior ranking member of the 655th.

The citation read, “(First name omitted) Henson distinguished herself as the first and only Airman First Class to be recognized as a superior performer during a 655 ISRG Unit Inspection. Her unique combination of talent, drive, and forward thinking contributed to the best commander's support staff observed to-date … (She) is clearly operating at a level far above her pay-grade and deserves special recognition...”

“I am very proud of Airman Henson and what she has been able to accomplish in such a short time with our squadron,” Smallwood said. “She is truly an exceptional Airman, with an amazing work ethic that we would all do well to emulate.”

Jennings and Henson are now teaching their tracking and management system to other 655 ISRG squadrons, and are also willing to share their best practices with other Reserve units, and even Air National Guard and Active Duty Air Force units.

The 655 Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group is dedicated to serving as the premier and most diverse ISR Group in the United States Air Force, delivering timely, reliable, accurate and actionable intelligence products enabling a decision advantage over adversaries of the United States. The 655th consists of a headquarters and three tenant squadrons in Ohio, and 11 geographically separated units in California, Texas, Nebraska, Virginia, Florida and Maryland. For exciting and rewarding career opportunities with the 655 ISRG, please contact your local Air Force Reserve recruiter or call 937-257-8117.