Dover problem solver fixes Air Force issue

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Faith Schaefer
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Dover Air Force Base airfield management is an around-the-clock job that relies on shift workers to maintain and oversee 22,505 feet of runway. A typical shift requires two fully qualified Airmen, but if one of those Airmen is not qualified a third qualified member is needed.

“What our manning looks like on paper is very different from what we can actually use.” said Senior Airman Kristina Grafton, 436th Operations Support Squadron airfield management operation supervisor, “The more qualified people we have, the better we can distribute shift work and give our Airmen well-deserved rest time, but that’s driven by training completion and documentation.”

Like other units, training management and documentation had become cumbersome and highly susceptible to error following an Air Force directed transition in training management software. Previously, airfield management tracked training through the digital system Air Force Training Records (AFTR). However, AFTR was disabled leading up to its expected replacement by Total Force Training Records (TFTR). Due to unforeseen circumstances, TFTR never fully materialized which forced airfield management trainers, like Grafton, to rely on paper records.

“This had a huge impact within our career field,” said Master Sgt. Kimberley Blackwell, 436th Operations Support Squadron airfield management deputy manager. “Many training managers within our career field [were] having a difficult time maintaining training records with TFTR not working properly.”

Predicting a loss of training continuity, Grafton repurposed an Excel workbook shared by the 436th Operations Support Squadron weather flight, omitting the need to rely solely on paper copies. The tracker converted the airfield management career field education and training plan into a fillable record. This document consists of 5 sections, 97 lessons with up to 16 tasks per lesson and corresponding journal entry space. This new system supports recurring Air Mobility Command and Air Force training requirements. Not only was Grafton’s design comprehensive, it was easily shareable.

Grafton became a popular referral for other training managers looking for help through an online social media forum for the airfield management community. Eventually, the online shares caught the attention of the Air Force Flight Standards Agency, which formally adopted the tool and provided it to 133 airfield management units spanning all Air Force major commands.

“The tracker is now the standardized interim training record template for our airfield management career field until TFTR is fully operational,” said Senior Master Sgt. Deshunn Foster, United States Air Force Airfield Management Operations procedures and training manager. “This tracker became the bridge to documenting and maintaining unit-level training, and took immediate relief off of airfield management training noncommissioned officers with a quick way forward to effectively manage their respective trainees.”

Beyond alleviating administrative strain, Grafton’s tracker also mitigated the potential loss of paper records. An error that could result in an Airman’s disqualification, leading to an increased manpower requirement for each shift until the lost training tasks can be certified. For small units like airfield management, finding an extra person for a shift taxes the entire team. Thanks to Grafton’s digital adeptness and willingness to do more, 133 other units should not need to worry about that.

“Our Air Force and airfield management community is better because of young leaders like Senior Airman Grafton,” said Foster. “She took a simple initiative to tackle a small training issue in her workplace and it morphed into a career field wide immediate fix action. I’m sure she had no idea she was making such a huge impact, and that’s what’s so awesome for us to see at the Headquarters of the Air Force level. The entire Air Force Flight Standards Agency team is deeply appreciative of Senior Airman Grafton and Team Dover Airfield Management.”

This training record system is an accomplishment that Grafton acknowledges with humility stating, “see a problem, fix a problem.”