Offutt Airmen share "innovative ideas" with vice chief of staff

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More than 30 members of the 55th Wing met with the Air Force vice chief of staff in a virtual town hall meeting to discuss the Airman Powered by Innovation (API) program Dec. 1.

Offutt Air Force Base is the first base chosen to interact with Gen. Larry Spencer on this topic as he hopes to hear innovative ideas generated by Airmen from across the service.

"Please send us your ideas," he said to the group in attendance. "If you take nothing else away from this session, I want you to know that we are listening and we want to hear from you."

API was officially launched April 4, as a follow-on program to the 2013 Every Dollar Counts campaign. During that campaign, 302 ideas submitted by Airmen were implemented by the Air Force, generating savings of $71 million and 24,000 hours annually.

API also replaced three existing Air Force "good idea" programs - the Innovative Development through Employee Awareness; Productivity Enhancing Capital Investment; and Best Practices programs.

"We really learned a lot through (the Every Dollar Counts campaign), which caused us to create the Airman Powered by Innovation program," Spencer said.

Highlighted during the 60-minute meeting was an API idea submitted by Tech. Sgt. Bryan Garcia of the 55th Security Forces Squadron. He proposed a plan that would save the Air Force money by simply stocking food for military working dogs at their deployed locations as opposed to shipping it out individually each time a MWD is deployed.

"Participating in this program may seem somewhat intimidating, but let's face it, everyone has something great they can bring to the fight," Garcia said. "Be encouraged that we have outstanding leadership who is supporting our every step in being the tip of the spear."

It is those "common sense" ideas, like Garcia's, that Spencer hopes to hear more of as this virtual forum will continue to be held monthly at different Air Force bases around the world.

"I'm going to tell you, we have those sorts of ideas at every wing," he said. "We need you tell us and we will change them, trust me."

Spencer also said the plan is to have API more transparent than some of the past Air Force "good idea" programs. One such way is that the site includes a 30-day snap shot that shows what submissions have been approved from across the service.

"You can actually see what we've approved, we aren't just reading them, but we are actually approving ideas," he said. "We think this is a big improvement from some of the other programs in the past."

Airmen in attendance were thankful Spencer took the time to meet with them and agreed API is a program that can really help the Air Force.

"The API program is important because it gives all of us a chance to make a real difference in our Air Force," said Airman 1st Class Sam Kimmons, assigned to the 55th Communications Squadron. "Also based on the answer that I got from Gen. Spencer, it seems that with all the attention that the API is getting amongst senior leaders we can expect to see some great things as it progresses over the next few years."

It is also the hope of the wing's Air Force Smart Operations 21 office that these virtual town hall meetings will jump-start the API program and help generate some ideas that will transform the Air Force.

"It's obvious that Air Force leadership values every Airman's opinion and wants to not only hear their innovative ideas, but get them implemented," said Mark Kier, the 55th Wing AFSO21 chief. "Our office is here to help and we look forward to the API program expanding the role of Air Force Smart Operations in the future."

Airmen who wish to submit ideas through API may do so by going online to the Airman Powered by Innovation website.