HomeNewsArticle Display

Air Force offers potential model for future MWR programs

Senior Airman Dane Adams, 354th Communications Squadron cyber transport technician, practices his golf swing during Eielson City Center’s opening March 29, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The ECC gives Airmen and their families the opportunity for various activities in a central location on base.

Senior Airman Dane Adams practices his golf swing during Eielson City Center’s opening March 29, 2013, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The ECC gives Airmen and their families the opportunity for various activities in a central location on base. Adams is a cyber transport technician with the 354th Communications Squadron.

WASHINGTON (AFNS) --

For a glimpse into how the military services might provide quality morale, welfare and recreation services and programs despite continuing budget pressures, the transformation program the Air Force Services directorate has been rolling out for the past two and a half years is worth a look.

Each service administers its own quality-of-life programs, and the offerings vary widely -- even within a service’s installations, depending on the location, the size and demographic of the population served, said Ed Miles, the Department of Defense MWR policy director.

So even as the entire military suffers the effects of budget cuts and sequestration, each service is looking for new efficiencies and innovations to minimize reductions to their programs and services.

In some cases, as demonstrated by the Air Force’s services transformation initiative, it’s actually improving the quality and accessibility of MWR -- despite cuts in both the appropriated funding and staffing required to provide quality-of-life programs.

The effort began with an extensive review of existing programs and services and an assessment of which most directly affect readiness in the event that all can’t be fully funded, said Col. Thomas Joyce, the services director at the Air Force Personnel Center in San Antonio, Texas.

Based on those findings, senior Air Force leaders designated six core activities: fitness, appropriated-fund dining facilities, child and youth care, youth activities, outdoor recreation programs, and libraries, he said.

“We have identified core programs that, if we only have ‘X’ amount of money, these are the ‘must-haves’ from an enterprise standpoint in terms of their contribution to readiness and developing and sustaining resilient Airmen and families,” Joyce said.

Meanwhile, Air Force officials unveiled several pilot programs to determine if new ideas being considered worked as well in practice as on paper in improving MWR services and programs.

One, now offered at six Air Force bases, enables Airmen, their families and civilian employees to visit their base fitness center at their convenience, even after the paid staff has left for the day. By swiping their common access card at the front entrance, they can work out 24/7, unaffected by reduced manning that has affected many fitness centers, said Michael Bensen, the deputy services director.

The experiment, introduced in March, has proven itself a winner at Joint Base Andrews, Md.; F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.; Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.; Scott Air Force Base, Ill.; Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash.; and Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. Less than halfway through what was planned as a year-long pilot program, Air Force officials already have asked for Defense Department approval to expand it servicewide.

Another initiative, moving forward at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, bundles many of the services activities under one roof.

The new Eielson City Center opened in late March in a former base exchange complex, now includes a community center, golf simulator, television lounge, snack bar, pool tables, air hockey and foosball tables, library, movies, exercise equipment and a kids’ playland.

The arrangement makes it convenient for Airmen and their families to relax and unwind, particularly during the long Alaskan winters. At the same time, it enabled base officials to consolidate many the administrative and logistical functions required to run the programs and activities.

The Air Force is considering expanding this “community commons concept” for more testing and possible servicewide use, Bensen reported. 

“If you think about it, this is how a town parks and recreation program operates. It gives you synergies from a programming perspective,” he said.

One of the challenges of quality-of-life programs, Joyce said, is recognizing when to eliminate an existing service or program. In some cases, the Air Force has found value in partnering with municipalities and private companies outside their gates to provide what the military no longer can.

In one successful example, officials at Joint Base Andrews have teamed with the commercial outdoor recreation company REI to provide rappelling, kayaking and other recreational programs and instruction.

Base participants get discounts, and the Air Force saves the costs of running its own programs, Bensen noted.

“You get a quality experience at a reduced cost,” he said.

One of the most popular initiatives being rolled out by Air Force Services targets appropriated-fund dining facilities.

Recognizing that Airmen with meal cards typically were eating just one meal a day at their dining facilities, Air Force officials set out to win them back. The Air Force Personnel Center funded a new food transformation initiative at five bases, hiring commercial food service providers to make their appropriated-fund dining facilities more like commercial restaurants. Airmen with food service specialties now get to work directly with private-sector professionals, delivering higher-quality services at a lower cost.

As a result, Airmen are eating twice as many meals at their dining facilities, and their civilian counterparts on base are joining them, Bensen reported. And when Airmen at the participating bases aren’t close to their dining facilities at mealtime or simply want a change of pace, they can use their common access cards to dine at the base club, bowling alley or other food-service activity.

With rave reviews since the initiative kicked off in October 2010, officials are moving forward with five additional pilot bases, Bensen said.

Bensen was quick to acknowledge that what works at one installation might not work everywhere.

“Every installation has different dynamics, so in all these initiatives, we can’t take a cookie-cutter approach,” he said.

But all installations, Joyce said, share the common goal of mission readiness.

“Ultimately, the services transformation initiative is about building and sustaining resilient airmen and families,” he said. “As we transform our programs, we always have in the back of our minds what we are here for: food services, fitness and family so we can build and sustain resilient Airmen and their families across the Air Force who carry out their jobs in support of the mission, day-in and day-out.”

 


Engage

Facebook Twitter
RT @AETCommand: BIG change to the @usairforce's special warfare recruiting & initial training pipeline aimed at ensuring enlisted recruits…
This HGU-55/P helmet is fitted with a Hybrid Optical-based Inertial Tracker and day visor at Moody Air Force Base,… https://t.co/rMzsO03MLL
BRRRRRRTT The @A10DemoTeam travels the world showcasing the unique capabilities of the Thunderbolt II. The… https://t.co/giQWIwD0rA
Congratulations to @388fw and @419fw for reaching "full warfighting capability" with the F-35A Lightning II ✈️… https://t.co/5BwOupKSU7
Easy like Sunday morning. https://t.co/7Yp9fKDHnn
Congratulations to Air Force Civil Engineer Tim Sullivan, who was named the 2020 Federal Engineer of the Year! 🎉… https://t.co/tIafy8KqKs
Did you know anxiety and depression are invisible wound conditions that can affect our Airmen? They can manifest in… https://t.co/7TJn1CICbh
Airmen practice joint close air support during exercise Cope North 20 to improve combat readiness, develop integrat… https://t.co/GLpsJAlvCx
RT @inspire_af_: The @usairforce understands the importance of innovation, and @AETCommand is continuing to move towards student-centered l…
RT @AirmanMagazine: These @usairforce U-2 pilots fly at 70,000 ft, where they provide vital reconnaissance for U.S. combatant commanders.…
Spouses, family members, & caregivers are a vital part of the #AirForce family. They take care of us & we must take… https://t.co/ayzETFm5M1
The Air Force Gunsmith Shop recently released a redesigned M4 Carbine that will fit in most ejection seats. This Ai… https://t.co/f4UPJLlPxp
RT @AETCommand: Innovating in your everyday environment doesn't always lend itself to creativity! Check out the Spark Cell space at Altus…
.@USAFCENT Airmen refuel a KC-135 with a Force system in Southwest Asia. This new capability provides more efficien… https://t.co/fA2OARRUqj
RT @ArmedwScience: Civil engineering is a key part of a deployed environment. Listen as this airman explains the civil engineering capabili…
WATCH: @SecAFOfficial joins @SecArmy and @SECNAV for a discussion with @CSIS on the state of the services, defense… https://t.co/Vfk09EMBdP
Congratulations Capt Lockridge. #AimHigh https://t.co/fcJQi1vsFO
.@ABCSharkTank, anyone? The Air Force Spark Tank announced its 2020 selectees. 6 Airmen were selected to present… https://t.co/5aoPxZ2OTF
Capt Jessica Knizel was the first of 10 Air Force Aerospace Nurse Practitioners. To meet the qualifications, Kniz… https://t.co/hu2WXp8i8z