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Rescue wing increases efficiency with innovative pre-deployment tracking system

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Anna-Marie Wyant
  • 920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
When reservists deploy, they are often in a race against time. Traditional reservists who work one weekend per month have to balance physicals, fitness testing, ancillary training, meetings, commander's calls and more--in addition to their operational jobs. It is difficult for reservists to fit everything they need to do for a whole month into two days, so efficient time management is a must. Realizing this, Master Sgt. Heidi White decided there was something she could do to help.

White, the unit training manager for the 920th Maintenance Group, keeps track of all training requirements for all 367 maintenance Airmen in the group. While about a quarter of those Airmen work at the wing full time, the rest are traditional reservists who must maximize their two working days during unit training assemblies. This is especially important when it comes time to deploy. When she first arrived at the unit five years ago, White realized improvements in the way training is tracked could lead to streamlined processes, saving time and money.

"When I first got here we had a very rudimentary setup for tracking pre-deployment training," White said. "It pretty much just had a list of names and some training on a spreadsheet."

That just wasn't enough information. White thought she could improve the system to include formulas that would calculate when members could begin training, when they needed to complete it, and what percentage of their training--individually or as a unit--was complete. In addition, she added not only the basic deployment requirements, but also information on weapons qualifications, hyperlinks to online training modules, fitness testing and more. White said combining all deployment requirements into one easy to navigate system saves time and money.

"I would say that at a minimum this system saves at least a day worth of work per person that would otherwise be spent trying to track down information on where, when, who, what, how for all the various pre-deployment requirements," White said of her tracking system. "So if you have 40 people, you have a week of man hours saved."

Having all the information with formulas on one color-coded spreadsheet also helps supervisors determine when to schedule block training and what percentage of the unit is deployment ready.

"It saves time for the commander in charge of the deployment and the senior noncommissioned officer in charge because they can look at the spreadsheet and project training requirements that need to be scheduled in advance, so we can make maximum use of our time," White said. "Members have to be on orders to do certain training, so it's not just about the training that we're scheduling ahead, but we're also allocating funds and time, man days, annual tour, and UTA reschedules. It has to be right, or else we're wasting money."

White said her tracking system helps the unit plan training further in advance and more efficiently based on the members' needs. It also helps make UTAs more productive for deploying members.

"It's best to have a good plan of action well before the UTA," she said. "The personnel and supervisors can look at the spreadsheet and plan out six to twelve months in advance. This has been one of the most effective training tools we've had to prepare personnel for deployment-related training."

Senior Master Sgt. Dean Peterson, an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter flight chief with the 920th Rescue Wing, said he finds White's tracking system extremely helpful prior to deploying.

"Through the years, the training requirement for each deployment seems to have grown," said Peterson, who has deployed with the 920th RQW eight times since 2003. "In preparation for any deployment, it is important to know the training status of each member of the team, and Master Sergeant White has made a great tracking tool to accomplish that task."

Peterson will be the maintenance noncommissioned officer in charge of a deployment in 2014, and he is already using the tracking system to ensure his Airmen will be ready to go. He said the tracking tool could help any deploying unit to better help meet its members' training requirements, thus streamlining the pre-deployment process for each Airman.

"I would recommend this tracking tool for other units; it's a very helpful tool to ensure all the training requirements are completed prior to a deployment," he said. "This spreadsheet allows for a quick reference on the training status of each deploying member, reducing some of the pre-deployment stress and allowing members to take care of other items prior to deployment."

This innovative tracking system has spread throughout the 920th RQW and its geographically separated unit, the 943rd Rescue Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. Multiple organizations used it for the wing's operational readiness exercise and inspection in February 2012 and April 2013.