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Teamwork provides results for Loggies: LRS applies famous basketball coach's principle to slash unit discrepancies, fights for winning score: 30, 0

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Chris Sukach
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
When sports enthusiasts rewind tapes of a big game, it's easy to see weak spots and point blame at specific players after the fact - but it doesn't change the score.

One famous coach understood that basic human dynamic and tried to head off the inevitable finger pointing by instilling in all those around him an ethic designed to remind players of what it takes to win - as a team - with one simple quote.

"It is amazing how much can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit," said John Wooden a basketball player who played for Perdue in the 1930s and later led University of California, Los Angeles to 88 consecutive wins, is just one of a handful of people enshrined in the Basketball Hall-of-Fame as both a player and a coach.

When the 436th Logistics Readiness Squadron's Vehicle Management Flight was preparing for Air Mobility Command's Unit Compliance Inspection and the Logistics Standardization Evaluation Program Inspection recently, they found hundreds of discrepancies within their unit. They knew something had to be done to accomplish the seemingly unconquerable task, so they looked to Wooden's recipe for success.

Faced with more than 300 discrepancies, Chief Master Sgt. Carlos Martinez, 436th LRS vehicle fleet and maintenance manager, formed an internal tiger team to identify the root causes and correct the discrepancies.

The team, hand-selected for their expertise at various levels of process visibility, was comprised of a master sergeant, a civilian, two technical sergeants and an Airman. The team scrutinized processes, discovered problems and helped sections correct and streamline their day-to-day business practices.

Master Sgt. Lester Beck, 436th LRS NCO in charge of special purpose and base maintenance and lead for the tiger team, applied Wooden's approach to the process.

"It didn't matter what area [the write-up] was a part of, everybody worked together as a team to get it done," he said.

Several write-ups fell between sections. Usually, this would be cause to "buy a write-up" on the AMC inspection because neither section would want to claim responsibility for the hit. The tiger team treated the write-up as a mark against the flight as a whole, just as the AMC inspection team would.

"Sergeant Beck's methodology was, ‘we're not the inspector with the black hat, we're the inspector with the white hat,'" said Gary Eley, 436th LRS refueling maintenance supervisor and civilian representative on the team. "Not only are we going to show you the problems, but we're going to help you correct the problems."

For example, the team knew that low-speed vehicles, also known as golf carts, were going to show up as a special interest item for accountability on the headquarters inspection. Various units throughout the wing use the LSVs, but vehicle maintenance is responsible for accountability.

Instead of simply documenting the LSVs - all that was required of LRS to meet the AMC requirement - the team assigned a member to go out to the various units across the base and physically "put hands on" the vehicles to count and tag them.

While it was reported that 60 LSVs were on the base, more than 90 were found and accounted for because of the extra effort made by the team.

Mr. Eley said that Tech. Sgt. Barry Baber, responsible for the accounting of LSVs, took the job to heart, going so far as to chase the unmarked vehicles down the road.

"If he saw one going down the road and didn't see a sticker on it, he would park his truck and go running after it," said Chief Martinez. "And he got them all accounted for."

Because of the team mentality displayed by and demanded of the tiger inspection team, not to mention their tenacity, the vehicle management flight took the 300 original discrepancies they found down to zero during the AMC Unit Compliance Inspection and Logistics Standardization and Evaluation Program Inspection - a feat virtually unheard of in the logistics world, which garnered their squadron a rating of "outstanding."

This concentrated effort set a standard for the logistics community, according to Mr. Eley.
"After the results were published of how well we did, guys I haven't talked to in 15 years were calling saying, ‘Hey, what did you guys do? How did you do it?'" remarked Mr. Eley.

The answer LRS decided: finger pointing wouldn't solve the problem.
After they won that battle, the execution, albeit a tough process, was all a walk in the park - proving that even in the face of insurmountable odds attitude is more than half the battle.