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AFSO 21 special assistant visits Aviano

Master Sgt. Ben Carson (right) shows Dr. Ron Ritter, the underside of an F-16 Fighting Falcon. Dr. Ritter is the secretary of the Air Force's special assistant for Air Force Smart Operations 21. He visited Aviano Air Base, Italy, Nov. 29 to see firsthand what improvements 31st Air Maintenance Squadron Airmen are making and how they are being implemented. Sergeant Carson is the 31st AMX inspection chief. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Master Sgt. Ben Carson (right) shows Dr. Ron Ritter, the underside of an F-16 Fighting Falcon. Dr. Ritter is the secretary of the Air Force's special assistant for Air Force Smart Operations 21. He visited Aviano Air Base, Italy, Nov. 29 to see firsthand what improvements 31st Air Maintenance Squadron Airmen are making and how they are being implemented. Sergeant Carson is the 31st AMX inspection chief. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Dr. Ron Ritter, the secretary of the Air Force's special assistant for Air Force Smart Operations 21, speaks with Master Sgt. Ben Carson, Nov. 29, at the 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron hangar. He visited Aviano Air Base, Italy, Nov. 29 to see firsthand what improvements 31st AMX Airmen are making and how the improvements are being implemented. Sergeant Carson is the 31st AMX inspection chief. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Dr. Ron Ritter, the secretary of the Air Force's special assistant for Air Force Smart Operations 21, speaks with Master Sgt. Ben Carson, Nov. 29, at the 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron hangar. He visited Aviano Air Base, Italy, Nov. 29 to see firsthand what improvements 31st AMX Airmen are making and how the improvements are being implemented. Sergeant Carson is the 31st AMX inspection chief. (U.S. Air Force photo)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy (AFPN) -- The secretary of the Air Force's special assistant for Air Force Smart Operations 21 visited here Nov. 29.

Dr. Ron Ritter is responsible for developing and coordinating the Air Force's AFSO 21 transformational efforts. An early leader in understanding and applying lean manufacturing methods in U.S. operations, the Rhodes Scholar has direct, front-line experience in aerospace production, and aircraft maintenance repair and overhaul, among other environments.

His visit to Aviano allowed him to see firsthand what improvements 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Airmen had suggested and how they were being implemented.

One implementation he witnessed while visiting an aircraft maintenance hangar was part of a broader series of changes that sliced two days off a seven-day process.

Instead of moving a ladder to the different parts of the aircraft, the maintainers built "maintenance stands" around the jet. It's literally scaffolding built exactly around the aircraft, said Master Sgt. Ben Carson, 31st AMXS Inspection Section chief.

"The Airmen are going to do a lot of this. They will come up with most of the ideas," Dr. Ritter said. "The senior leaders need to give the right direction, but the ones that will manage, execute and sustain is that mid-level of leadership."

Of course, if Airmen have ideas that will be implemented, mid-level leaders first have to be willing to listen and consider them. Optimally, supervisors are actively seeking input.

"We're always asking if anyone has any ideas and to come forward with them. There's always an open line of communication," said Staff Sgt. Stephen Schweiss, a 31 AMXS phase floor chief, who said his door is always open to his Airmen.

Dr. Ritter also said the key to AFSO 21 working is airmen stepping up to voice their ideas to a supervisor, who should have an open mind.

And that's what he found at Aviano.

"They're always looking for new ideas as far as what we think will make our job's easier here on the floor," said Senior Airman Ovidio Gonzalez, 31 AMXS phase crew chief.

Open lines of communication, supervisors seeking new ideas for how to improve efficiencies and increase productivity, and Airmen willing to speak up. Now that sounds like an AFSO 21 recipe for success.

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