TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
A newly redesigned facility, which opened in June 2016, has better streamlined the deployment process and provided cost savings for the Air Force.
Military personnel are subject to deployments, but civilian Airmen volunteer for deployments as well. With tremendous mission requirements to support for each deployment, the 72nd Logistics Readiness Squadron needed larger infrastructure with the necessary resources to provide effective support.
With a $3.3 million price tag, the revamped Deployment Processing Center now spans across 20,000 square feet and has the capability to conduct all deployment contact points in one location, rather than having to send Airmen across the installation for various operational tasks. Greater efficiency has eliminated troops having to endure numerous bus stops, lengthy lines and overall wait time leading up to a deployment. Now, Bldg. 260 houses the weapons vault, mobility equipment, a manifest and holding area, plus a room large enough to accommodate 298 personnel to support processing. Additionally, the DPC has private rooms for briefings and counseling, if necessary.
Prior to its redesign and relocation, the DPC was next door in Bldg. 255. A much smaller facility, the 72nd LRS was limited to process only 50 personnel at a time. Now, according to Deployment and Distributions Chief Ron Stencel, the facility has increased its processing capability to as high as 300 personnel at any given time.
“Efficiency is gained in various capacities through the top-tier facility,” Stencel said. “Time savings is huge; whether it’s a time-sensitive deployment that requires no room for error, delaying subsequent corrections, or the luxury of spending more time with family.”
Not only is LRS now equipped to process more personnel at a time, they’re able to conduct a deployment in a much shorter time period, shaving off up to five hours in processing time. Helping the one-stop shop achieve ultimate efficiency is its compilation of personal deployment function lines, deployment control center and the Air Terminal Operations Center. Each plays its own integral role in ensuring a deployment runs seamlessly.
In simple terms, the center operates quite similarly to a regular airport, with the same restrictions in accordance with TSA guidelines.
“We’ve had situations before where there has been an issue with an aircraft and the Airmen have had to fly out or re-process as a commercial flight passenger,” the chief explained. “We process them as if they’re flying commercially and they’re screened as such to eliminate any hiccups that could potentially arise.”
So, just like an ordinary flight, Airmen will enter a controlled environment and begin their security screening. Unable to carry-on any weapons in the event they’re forced to process commercially, Airmen have an amnesty box and keep things like bullets or hazardous materials packed away.
After making their way through conveyor belt screening and security checkpoints, Airmen enter the PDF line equipped with folders containing all of their requisites for deployment. The PDF line is staffed with members from legal, finance, Airman and Family Readiness Center, medical, Military Personnel Section and the chapel who determine whether or not everything has been completed. For example, if an Airman failed to get a necessary shot, medical not only recognizes that but typically is able to provide the vaccination on the spot as well.
“A change that we implemented as a result from our Continuous Process Improvement events was issuing a boarding pass to each Airman at the end of the PDF line,” Stencel said. Boarding passes were instituted following a miscount during CPIs, and according to the chief, the new option has worked out pretty well.
Once Airmen receive their boarding pass, they make their way to the sterile environment comparable to being “at the gate” in a commercial airport setting. The room has an occupancy of approximately 300 people, which has been a significant factor in contributing to the efficiency gained in the new facility.
The accuracy of the deployment line is critical and the wing receives a grade upon a deployment’s arrival to the area of responsibility. If there are errors, the wing commander will hear about it. The Air Force standard for in-processing discrepancies downrange is zero and there are semi-annual secure video teleconferences to discuss every mission impact discrepancy that is acquired. The 72nd Air Base Wing Installation Deployment Readiness Cell (IDRC) team has maintained zero discrepancies for more than a year, a massive accomplishment. A tedious and meticulous role, the unit deployment managers are responsible for knowing every requirement and every tasking, for each deployment and region may demand different things.
“Functionally, we have made some tremendous changes and improvements,” Stencel added. “We track stats through Art of the Possible initiatives and weekly Walk the Wall events to determine where our constraints are. But, we have an incredible team behind all of this. Our new Installation Deployment Officer, Mary Webb, has brought a lot of energy to the IDRC, and we have a great group of military guys who work all of the air terminal cargo.”
All in all, the manpower hasn’t changed significantly, according to assistant IDO Alice Collingwood. The 72nd LRS employs 18 military and nine civilians at the DPC, ranging from Air Terminal Operations Center managers to unit deployment managers, to hazmat training officers and cargo inspectors. Everyone’s job is uniquely important to the mission.
“We have three civilians, for example, that work on hazmat training and declarations for deployments,” Collingwood said. “Deploying engines requires certain hazmat requirements. Joint inspections occur to determine if an engine is ready for airlift, and if it’s not, that cargo becomes ‘frustrated.’”
Beyond deploying Airmen to locations around the globe, the DPC is also readily prepared and tasked with humanitarian efforts. Most recently aiding the affects from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, the center has assisted with deploying ample nourishment to those in need. Things like rice and cornmeal, non-perishable items are amongst the lot as the cargo shifts from weaponry to food and water supply.
Whether they are providing support and delivering combat power for America, or offering aid and assistance through humanitarian efforts, Airmen deploy regularly in service to our nation. Having a one-stop shop facility with the capabilities to ensure our Airmen and aircraft depart and arrive safely and seamlessly to any AOR has proven its gold standard status and has allowed for the U.S. Air Force to remain unparalleled against any adversary.