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New ACC program begins, aimed to improve MQ-1/9 community

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. (AFNS) -- The initial stage of Air Combat Command's new program, the Culture and Process Improvement Program, began Aug. 21 at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, and is designed to take place across 12 Air Force active-duty, Reserve and Guard bases.

The CPIP was established to target and develop methods of improvement for concerns identified by Airmen and family members in the MQ-1B Predator and MQ-9 Reaper career fields.

The program, set to happen throughout the month of September, began by sending surveys to 3,366 officer and enlisted Airmen to help identify concerns and issues in the MQ-1/9 community. Starting Sept. 8, two CPIP teams will travel to 12 bases to engage with Airmen and their families and build upon the information discovered from the survey results.

"We're seeing problems in the MQ-1/9 community at both the major command and base levels that can be solved quickly," said Col. Troy Jackson, the command and control intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations division chief and CPIP officer in charge. "Airmen in this career field are being exhausted with no end in sight; we want to fix this."

According to Jackson, the program is comparable to Air Force Global Strike Command's Force Improvement Program. It takes the same grass roots approach, except it's tailored toward the MQ-1/9 communities. CPIP presents a holistic approach to identifying where improvements need to be made both in the work environments and overall quality of life.

"A lot of assumptions were made over the years, and people don't realize how stressful and overworked the MQ-1/9 field is," Jackson said. "We're asking Airmen to do a lot when they're either not trained properly or not ready for what's being asked of them, which leaves the Airmen burned out."

The approach toward the program is to focus on fixing smaller problems fast and discover any long-term strategic goals to improve the more complex, deep-seeded problems of the Airmen through the process.

"The idea is to present an opportunity for Airmen to understand they're being heard and to speak their mind," Jackson said. "They need to know their leadership wants to hear their needs and appreciates what they do."

Besides the CPIP teams reaching out to Airmen, they're also hoping to hear responses from family members. When the teams visit each of the 12 scheduled bases, both Airmen and family members will be allowed to voice their opinions through questionnaires and interviews.

The bases scheduled for visits are as follows:
- Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, Sept. 9-11
- March Air Reserve Base, California, Sept. 13
- Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, Sept. 13
- Holloman AFB, New Mexico, Sept. 15-16
- Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base, Texas, Sept. 15
- Whiteman AFB, Missouri, Sept. 17
- Cannon AFB, New Mexico, Sept. 18-19
- Berry Field Air National Guard Base, Tennessee, Sept. 19
- Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, Sept. 21
- Springfield Municipal Airport, Ohio, Sept. 21
- Fargo ANGB, North Dakota, Sept. 23
- Hancock Field ANGB, New York, Sept. 23

In addition to surveying and interviewing Airmen and their families, the CPIP team created a Facebook page and a blog in hopes of expanding to a wider audience, according to Jackson. The Facebook page will stay updated throughout the program and provide an opportunity for 24-hour access to the CPIP team. The blog will also be available to provide program updates and provide open and anonymous responses.

"This isn't about fixing chow halls, gyms or the other base amenities that have been looked at before," Jackson said. "We want to provide the MQ-1/9 community the same level of holistic quality of life and professional development as other weapon systems, and this is a step toward it."

When the CPIP teams leave each base, a CPIP contingent at ACC headquarters will analyze the results and provide real-time feedback to the teams for improving the interview process. After completing the base visits, the CPIP team will determine why certain indicators were reported in the data and interview process.

The findings and recommended solutions will be developed by peer-selected MQ-1/9 members that are part of the CPIP team. The members will then present the CPIP's recommendations for improvement to Gen. Hawk Carlisle, the ACC commander.

"The past has shown the Air Force tried to fix smaller aspects at the base level, but only so much money can be thrown at certain problems," Jackson said. "This approach will allow us to view what's happening in the MQ-1/9 career field.

"These Airmen deserve an opportunity to have personal and professional development, lifestyles, work environments and other benefits just like any other Airman," Jackson said. "There needs to be a constant problem-solving goal."

The purpose of CPIP is to collect as much honest feedback as possible. Jackson explained that Airmen and their families are being presented with the ability to be heard and tell the Air Force both what's bothering them and any recommendations they may have to improve issues.

"Airmen need to provide us with their unfiltered responses and opinions when we visit," Jackson said. "Your responses are going to the commander of ACC, so what you say is what gets reported."