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53rd WEG Airmen create new initiative for smarter operations

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Cory Hinton, 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron weapons evaluator, briefs members of the 53rd Weapon Evaluations Squadron leadership during the first meeting of the unit’s new Power of Innovative Thinking (PoinT) initiative. The initiative is meant to facilitate a dialog between different squadrons within the 53rd WEG to come up with plausible solutions for problems within the organization. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Solomon Cook/Released)

Staff Sgt. Cory Hinton, 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron weapons evaluator, briefs members of the 53rd Weapon Evaluations Squadron leadership during the first meeting of the unit’s new Power of Innovative Thinking (PoinT) initiative. The initiative is meant to facilitate a dialog between different squadrons within the 53rd WEG to come up with plausible solutions for problems within the organization. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Solomon Cook)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- Leaders from the 53rd Weapon Evaluations Group met Dec. 16, 2016, to discuss the group’s newest initiative that uses innovative problem solving to help streamline their mission. 

Col. Lance Wilkins, 53rd WEG commander and his staff, along with squadron commanders within the 53rd WEG, participated in an open forum discussion listening to solutions put forth by the first participants of the new “Power of innovative Thinking,” or PoinT, program.

Wilkins was inspired by a mentor early in his career who charged Wilkins and three other lieutenants with helping highlight deficiencies within the wing. Wilkins has since modified the experience to empower his own team of Airmen to tackle problems within the 53rd WEG. 

“To take a leadership philosophy and create a program that you then see Airmen go and not only meet the intent of your philosophy, but take it a step beyond that into problem solving and critical thinking through innovative processes is truly heartening,” Wilkins said.

Four members of the five-person group presented a briefing of their proposed solutions related to the Air Force-wide issue of additional duties. Their proposed solution was to create a “super command support section,” that would be a duty within itself to be rotated on a set timeline. 

“We gave a briefing about issues and solutions to the Air Force additional duties restructure,” said Tech. Sgt. Vickie Ortiz, 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron NCO in charge of E-9 operations. “Within the first rendition of this program, we looked into addressing the issues with additional duties. The focus was to reduce the overtasking and not being able to focus on the mission.”

As the team met over the course of three months, they shared thoughts, ideas and solutions. As the program continues to develop and evolve to meet the needs of the 53rd WEG, the issues that need solutions will change and become more complex. Participants said the key to getting the edge on innovation was incorporating Airmen with different perspectives from within the squadrons. 

“The greatest benefit of WEG PoinT was the integration of different squadrons,” Ortiz said. “Getting out of our own squadrons and going to a different squadron, meeting people and putting faces to names was a great opportunity. Before this, each of us had not been to each other’s squadrons.”

Another member of the group, Staff Sgt. Adam Schad, 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron combat hammer weapons system evaluator shared his thoughts on the first WEG PoinT, issues addressed, and his hope for future groups.

“It was an honor to be in the first rendition,” Schad said. “Although, it was challenging… There was no foundation put forth for us to go forward. We had to come up with something to get traction rolling on what we wanted to do. Hopefully for future WEG PoinTs, they will have a baseline of what we did here to go off of and go forward.”

As Wilkins heard the feedback from the NCOs regarding the program, he reflected and spoke of his plans for the future.

“In future WEG PoinTs, I plan to narrow the scope of the task just slightly,” Wilkins said. “I don’t want it to be as time consuming. Other than that, as far as how the program was run, I didn’t hear any major issues. Several of the things we will continue doing, other processes we will alter as the program evolves.”

At the conclusion of the briefing, Wilkins and the other commanders and superintendents were confident in the program’s future success and were looking forward to the next WEG PoinT.

“The participants exceeded my expectations in every way,” Wilkins said. “Their ability to approach the problem with an open mind and to narrow it down to something actionable was very encouraging. It once again reinvigorated my faith, trust and confidence in the professionalism of our NCO core. What I felt in that room today, was those NCOs feeling empowered to make changes at the group level in a positive fashion. To me that was powerful.”

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