Inspections 101 -- Preparation is the key

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Richard Johnston
  • 71st Operations Group superintendent
Less than two weeks to go before the Inspector General's team rolls into town for our Unit Compliance Inspection. For those of us in the military, inspections are comparable to the College National Championships, World Series or Super Bowl in the sports arena.

Many of us are putting the finishing touches on months of hard work and preparation. Though it may seem like you are just never prepared enough, believe me, you are. 

I have gone through more than 10 unit inspections throughout my career. The inspection I remember the most was an Operational Readiness Inspection in 1993 while assigned as an advisor to the California Air National Guard. 

The Air Force had just finished wrapping up Operation DESERT STORM where the Guard and Reserves played a major role in the war. The ANG unit's gaining command, which I was attached to, was the newly formed Air Combat Command, the successor of the Tactical Air Command. 

A little history lesson - TAC, and later ACC, took inspections and operational readiness very, very seriously. Needless to say, when the ACC IG team arrived, they aimed to prove just that as they drilled our unit non-stop for four straight days. 

I still remember being in Mission Oriented Protective Posture level 4 for five hours in almost 100 degree heat. Many of the unit's old war veterans commented they had never been through a tougher inspection. But our squadron performed well and received an overall Excellent rating mainly due to long hours of preparation, our remarkable unit pride and teamwork. 

For the most part, IG team inspectors will follow your functional self-inspection checklists almost verbatim. You might say you'll be given an "open book test." Now don't get me wrong, I've taken some open book tests which were really tough. 

But there should be no surprises come inspection day. 

Over the years, I have gathered a short list of pointers which I would like to share with you to help you better prepare for our upcoming inspection. 

Preparation is key. If you're a section leader, develop a game plan for success and practice it. National Football League conference champions don't take two weeks off before the Super Bowl. They prepare a game plan and practice it. 

Brief all of your section workers on what to expect during the inspection. Hold mock question and answer sessions with your Airmen, especially those who will have the most face time with inspectors. 

Construct an IG welcome brief which explains your unit and section mission, vision and goals. 

Create a good first impression. Greet your inspector each day and offer him help in any way. Ensure you keep yourselves and your work center clean, neat and orderly. Wear your best uniform and ensure your boots are shined and free from scuff marks. Get your "inspection haircut" and ensure you and your coworkers are within grooming standards. 

Wear a positive attitude and remain calm and even keeled throughout the inspection. If you're involved in an error or mistake, correct it as soon as possible, throw the incident behind you, and move on. 

I once worked for a chief master sergeant who really stressed-out whenever an IG team visited our facility. And his stress rubbed off on others as everyone was so afraid to screw-up and face the chief's wrath. Negativism is a direct reflection of the attitude of both your work center and unit leadership. 

Be honest and proactive with inspectors. If you're stumped by an inspector's question, admit it. Don't try to hide the fact or make up a bogus answer. Inspectors are usually the command's or career field's sharpest individuals. They know when a person is guessing or simply doesn't know the right answer. 

Take things a step further and offer a follow-up answer or fix action. "Sir/Ma'am, I'm sorry but I don't know the answer to your question. But I will research the question in Air Force Instruction-XXX and get an answer back to you ASAP." 

Be familiar with the various missions in your chain of command: wing, group, squadron, flight and section. Be able to tell an inspector how the work you do everyday contributes to mission success. 

Finally, hold a debrief each day. Gather your Airmen and go over what questions the inspector asked and what checklist items he evaluated and wrote-up. Try to correct any deficiencies as quickly as possible. This shows your inspector that you care and are actively involved in your work center's success. 

Of course, the best part of every inspection is when it is finally over. Believe it or not, passing an inspection successfully can be rather easy. If you've done the preparation, your inspection results should be more of a validation process than a surprise. And the satisfaction you'll receive when your grade is announced at the out brief will be downright awesome. 

Get your inspection game face ready and good luck.