966th AACS team wins Air Force-level award; presented by Air Force Chief of Staff

TINKER AFB, Okla. -- Ten captains made Tinker proud. Representing the 30-member 552nd Air Control Wing Formal Training Unit Distributed Training Team, the captains accepted an Air Force-level award from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz Sept. 15 in Washington, D.C.

The 966th Airborne Air Control Squadron team won the Chief of Staff Team Excellence Award and was named Air Force Best Practice recipient for reducing a three-year backlog in the air battle manager training program.

"Congratulations to the entire team and to everyone in the wing who supported the FTU distributed training effort this past year," said Col. Patricia Hoffman, 552nd ACW commander. "This is clear evidence of the sustained excellence of our Airmen and our ability to come up with innovative ideas to make our Air Force better."

In 2008, 552nd ACW senior leadership tasked the team with brainstorming a way to eliminate the three-year backlog. As it was, once students got into the program, after waiting more than 300 days, it took them approximately 260 days to complete the training, said Capt. Tony Braun, team member who went to Washington, D.C. to accept the award.

The team devised a "three-prong attack" solution and eliminated the back log in nine months. The "prongs" included pooling instructors from other squadrons to create one large training unit; using a forward-operating location in upstate New York and changing the training syllabus.

"Because of the forward-operating location's close proximity to other Air Force bases we were able to take advantage of up to two or three times the amount of activity that we would have generated at Tinker," Captain Braun said.

The previous syllabus had allowed for Distributed Mission Operations, a virtual program, to be used for two of the eight training requirements. Now, trainees may use up to five DMO programs, supported by live sorties.

Captain Braun said since implementing the three-prong strategy, the average student waits only 46 days for training and completes the program in 180 days.

"The long-term benefit will be a 25-percent increase in the annual number of air weapons officer FTU graduates," Colonel Hoffman said.
Captain Braun agreed.

"The three-prong attack can be used by any weapons system in the Air Force to solve any training backbone problem they have," he said. "The full extent of the problem extends beyond what we do here ... it goes on to manning the Air Force."

The FTU Distributed Training Team was one of five teams to win General Schwartz's Team Excellence award. The awards' presentation was held during the Air Force Association Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition.

"It was very meaningful and it's great to know that all our efforts here are supported by leadership and what we achieved didn't go unnoticed," Captain Braun said. "The effort we put forth was rewarded and people care that we did this."