Readiness, Resilience, Reform: Reviewing the command's progress on its three strategic priorities showcases innovation

  • Published
  • By Bo Joyner

Not long after Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee became the commander of Air Force Reserve Command and chief of the Air Force Reserve more than two years ago, he announced his three strategic priorities for the command: prioritize strategic depth and accelerate readiness, develop resilient leaders, and reform the organization.

“As a command team, improving the lives of Reserve Citizen Airmen has been our guiding principle from day one,” Scobee said. “To that end, the command chief (Chief Master Sgt. Timothy White) and I established our strategic priorities. I’m proud of the progress we have made and am grateful for the work you do every day to move the command forward in these three areas. As we move further into 2021, we will continue to accelerate our actions to achieve our objectives, setting our strategic priorities up for long-term sustainment.”

Scobee said the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s recent paper Accelerate Change or Lose presents an indisputable case for change, and the Reserve’s strategic priorities are in lock step with those of the Air Force and all Total Force partners.

We recently sat down for interviews with the command’s three strategic priority champions. Over the next few pages, we’ll take a look at the progress AFRC has made in each of these areas and what the champions are currently working on to make sure the command keeps advancing all of its strategic priorities.

Prioritize Strategic Depth and Accelerate Readiness

As AFRC’s director of Air, Space and Information Operations (A3), Brig. Gen. Derin Durham is the champion for the command’s Prioritize Strategic Depth and Accelerate Readiness strategic priority – an effort that speaks directly to the Reserve’s reason for being.

“The mission of the Air Force Reserve is to provide strategic depth and operational support to the Joint Force,” Scobee said. “Our Reserve Citizen Airmen and squadrons must be lethal, combat-ready forces. We have to prioritize strategic depth and accelerate readiness to guarantee we can execute today’s missions and triumph in tomorrow’s fight.”

Durham’s team of subject matter experts from across all functional areas throughout the command is focusing its efforts on three main objectives.

“Goal No. 1 for us is to prioritize strategic depth and we’re attacking that by developing an analytic tool that will allow our functional area and career field managers to identify bottlenecks, roadblocks and limiting factors to healthy strategic depth within each career field,” he said. “We will then be able to apply targeted corrective action by Air Force Specialty Code to improve and strengthen our strategic depth.”

The team’s second goal is accelerating readiness. “To meet this objective, we are developing a unit-level analytic tool that will help us identify areas of need and target our resources to improve our ability to answer present requirements and requests for support from the regular Air Force and combatant commanders.”

Durham’s third objective involves a strategic training plan for the command. “The goal is to align our unit-level training and major command-level participation and hosting of major exercises with the Air Force’s new Force Generation model. We’re looking at ensuring high effectiveness for every training and exercise slot utilized by prioritizing units to the appropriate training at the appropriate time in the Force Generation cycle.”

The command has made significant strides in terms of prioritizing strategic depth and accelerating readiness since Scobee assumed command in 2018. One of the command’s main focus areas under this strategic priority has been to convert about 1,200 Air Reserve Technician positions to Active Guard/Reserve positions.

“Converting select ART positions to AGR positions enables us to fill vacancies in a more timely manner,” Scobee said. “The AGR hiring process is not only faster than the civilian hiring process, it is also much simpler for both the hiring authority and the applicant. The end result is a decrease in the number and duration of vacancies and an increase in unit readiness, cohesion and morale.”

The command has also made significant improvements in terms of medical readiness and its associated processes and programs. When Scobee assumed command, AFRC had a backlog of more than 2,000 cases awaiting medical review. Within a year that backlog was gone and the command’s medical review timeline has been reduced to less than 14 days.

Develop Resilient Leaders

Defining exactly what constitutes a resilient leader can be tricky. Scobee recently expounded on what he thinks makes a resilient leader.

A resilient leader is “someone who has a high degree of emotional intelligence at all levels, as technical competence alone will not guarantee our future success,” he said. “Emotionally intelligent leaders are highly motivated and inspire those around them to overcome adversity. They have a high degree of self-awareness, recognizing their own limitations and blind spots. They are guided by empathy, aware of how their interactions affect those around them. Finally, they have the social skills necessary to build resilient teams based on mutual trust. Each of these components of emotional intelligence is essential to leading in the Air Force Reserve.”

Brig. Gen. Tanya Kubinec, the champion for AFRC’s Develop Resilient Leaders strategic priority, has assembled a team of about 50 experts from across the command to help her carry out her strategy for growing resilient Reserve leaders at all levels.

“We’ve centered our strategy around two main goals – Educate and Engage,” Kubinec, the mobilization assistant to Scobee in his role as AFRC commander, said during a recent interview. “Our focus is on promoting both professional and personal resilience for all of our Airmen and their families, with a special emphasis on resilience in the digital age.”

Under the education umbrella, Kubinec’s team is focused on accelerating readiness through a continuum of learning that will last throughout a Reservist’s career, applicable to Aimen of all generations.

“Of course, our first step is to study the current state of resiliency in the command,” Kubinec said. “We use the SWOT strategic planning technique to determine our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. We’re also developing a resilience health diagnostics model to measure the effectiveness of our Educate and Engage goal actions.”

The general said one of her team’s objectives under the education goal is to deliver digital-age learning to Reservists.

“There is a correlation between screen time and resilience and we want our people to be smart about device usage and to be aware of the 24/7 domestic and foreign threats," she said. Kubinec's team is launching an "on-device, on-demand" application, updated monthly, providing digital force protection and resiliency development materials available to all AFRC Airmen at the touch of a button.

“Our phones and other electronic devices can be very addictive. Couple that with the social isolation being caused by the COVID pandemic, and it could be a recipe for disaster," she said. "A lot of the research indicates that personal, human connection is a critical component of resiliency. That’s why we’re organizing, guiding and empowering our network of resilience professionals, that includes our commanders, chiefs and first sergeants. Our plan includes training, education and capability to 'connect the network' so people can connect personally with others and help build resilience throughout the command.”

Kubinec said her team’s main focus under its goal of engagement is to strengthen AFRC’s warrior ethos and its resilience network.

“In the Special Operations world, they have something called POTFF – preservation of the force and family – where they embed helping professionals within the squadrons, and we’re benchmarking off that as much as we can,” she said. “When the helping professionals – chaplains, first sergeants, health providers, exercise physiologists, religious support teams – are embedded in the same place with the Airmen, that’s how the difference is made. When someone is at their worst, they are least likely to ask for help. If they have to look up a phone number and talk to someone they’ve never met before, that can be a bridge too far. But if there is someone present in the unit they have already built trust with who understands the mission and challenges faced by that Airman, they will go to them for help.”

AFRC has already achieved success along these lines.

“We have worked on getting the necessary manpower authorizations to provide more full-time chaplains and first sergeants,” White said recently. “We are in the process of building out our religious support teams across our host unit wings to provide full-time support to the spiritual fitness pillar. We are also finalizing our hiring for full-time first sergeants, who will serve as our local Comprehensive Airman Fitness champions, helping Reserve Citizen Airmen access helping services, regardless of their status. We have also worked on refining our Key Spouse program, which helps to build connections between our Reserve Citizen Airmen’s families and their units.”

Reform the Organization

As the champion for AFRC’s Reform the Organization strategic priority, Brig. Gen. William Kountz knows you can’t have reformation without good information. To that end, Kountz, the command’s director of Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection (A4), is leading a team focused on reforming the organization by harnessing data and business analytics.

“When a lot of people hear the words ‘reform the organization,’ the first thing they think of is a new org chart, but that’s not what it’s really about,” he said during a recent interview. “Reforming the organization is really about improving the way the organization operates and makes decisions. And the driving function behind that is data analysis.”

The general said his team is focusing its efforts on three main goals: establishing a shared data environment, developing business analytics and creating a business intelligence suite.

“Our first goal is to create a shared data environment inside of AFRC so that we have a data warehouse instead of a data lake,” he said. “It’s critical that all our data comes from authoritative data bases and it’s just as important that it’s easily accessible.”

Kountz said part of creating a shared data environment is building a data science center of excellence to discover and determine the scope and impact of data products and tools.

From there, the next step is to develop the necessary capacity (personnel) and capability (training and tools) to leverage a shared data environment into actionable, data-driven decision support for AFRC leaders.

“The shared data environment has various tiers of users,” Kountz said. “You have people like me who are just going to take the data that is gathered and presented and make a decision. Then, there is a mid-tier user who is more oriented to model building and using the various tools to make the presentation visible to someone like myself. And finally, you have the highest tier of user – the experts who make sure we are properly using the tools and the data. We are going to define what these tiers are, and we are going to define what training is needed for each tier. The ultimate step is to start building models to get after our biggest problems and make those models available to decision makers at the highest level.”

Kountz’s team has already started working on building models around some of AFRC’s biggest challenges.

“We’re building a Functional Area Manager toolkit to give our FAMs the opportunity to have access to authoritative data to make the right decisions about readiness,” he said. “We’re working on a model to look at financial management data to better execute our budget in the execution year and prioritize the money we have in real time with current data so that we make the best decisions on prioritization of funding and other resources across the command.

“We are going to look at medical readiness – another big one that impacts our Airmen and our unit readiness. We are going to create models to show where we are in terms of medical readiness, and therefore, overall readiness.”

Kountz said the models and toolkits his team are working on are in lockstep with Scobee’s other strategic priorities. “A lot of the things we are working on right now are centered around readiness, but we are also looking at what can we model about our Airmen’s resiliency. That one is going to take a while, but we’re trying to see where the data makes sense.”

The general has assembled a team of experts from across AFRC to assist in the reforming the organization effort, including a host of people from the Directorate of Analyses, Lessons Learned and Continuous Process Improvement (A9) and the Cyberspace and Technology Directorate (A6).

“This is a huge project that, in the end, will make the Reserve Command better,” he said. “We will end up reforming the organization because we will have the information and the data we need to make more informed decisions.”

While Kountz’s team is focusing on data collection and business analytics to help reform the organization, there are reformation efforts taking place throughout Air Force Reserve Command.

For example, Reserve Citizen Airmen are heavily involved in the Fighter Optimization eXperiment (FOX), a project that seeks to rapidly integrate advanced software and hardware technologies to maximize the F-35’s lethality and survivability, while also creating an agile development test tool and fielded combat multiplier for all Department of Defense aircraft.

Also under the command’s reform the organization umbrella, AFRC recently established an IMA working group to thoroughly examine the individual mobilization augmentee program. The group’s focus is to ensure IMAs receive proper administrative control and support to meet guidance established by the National Defense Strategy and Department of Air Force leaders.

The Reserve is also undertaking a travel pay reform initiative to evaluate and improve the command’s travel pay process from beginning to end. Under the travel pay reform initiative, AFRC and Kessel Run recently kicked off a new software development program to simplify and update the user interface of the Air Force Reserve’s Unit Training Assembly Personnel System (UTAPS) and its Air Reserve Order Writing System – Reserve (AROWS-R).

Scobee said Reserve Citizen Airmen are uniquely qualified to help reform the organization because of their connections to the civilian sector.

“One of the greatest strengths of the Air Force Reserve is the diverse experience that Reservists bring from their civilian employers,” he said. “These experiences help us to infuse best practices from industry, especially in areas like talent management, financial operations, medical readiness, space and cyberspace.” #ReserveReady #ReserveResilient #ReserveReform