Improve situational awareness for February's ORI

  • Published
  • By Maj. Sean Martin
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Plans and Programs office
The Operational Readiness Inspection team will be here less than one year from now, and it is going to take some effort to get the base prepared to welcome and host the Air Education and Training Command Inspector General team Feb 22.

Over the next few months, you will start to hear more and more about self-inspections and making sure our programs are compliant. By the end of this year, I'm sure we'll be tidying up our offices, updating office bulletin boards and taking unframed pictures off our walls.

On the whole, I'm not concerned about what the inspectors will find. I know we will be ready. In fact, I'm glad the inspection team is coming, so we can show what we do and how well we do it.

Team Vance performs at a high level every day. Base personnel earn so many 19th Air Force, AETC and Air Force level awards that congratulating the winners becomes almost routine. It is clear that this base is second to none in the manner with which it performs its high-risk undergraduate pilot training mission. Vance is special.

However, there is a weak area which concerns me. This weak area is not tangible like a records management file plan or a fitness program folder. When Vance AFB simulates a real-world threat in the form of a Force Protection Condition change during exercise week, we have a tendency to dismiss it.

Last February, it was written in this same space how Team Vance showed a general lack of situational awareness during an exercise. There were two exercise scenarios that were highlighted in the article. Here is an excerpt:

"During FPCON Charlie, the Exercise Evaluation Team drove a vehicle up on a curb next to the wing headquarters building and parked it. EET members also placed a briefcase outside the clinic. Twenty-seven minutes elapsed between the suspicious vehicle being parked and a call to security forces. At least 20 people walked past the vehicle, one person more than once, yet no one noticed or reported it. At the clinic, it took 48 minutes for someone to notice the suspicious briefcase outside and call security forces. Sixteen people passed by the briefcase."

One year later, I see similar results from our most recent exercise. In this exercise we also had a bomb threat called in to security forces. Just like the year before, the EET placed a suitcase with exposed wires next to the generator of one of the larger buildings on base.

Over the course of half an hour, nine folks walked by the suitcase's first location. A second location near the large building was selected in order to make it easier to find. Four personnel and 10 minutes later, the suitcase was finally located and reported.

I don't doubt that the sleet, wind and rain that day were a factor. However, we were exercising FPCON Charlie and we should have been more observant. During FPCON Charlie, we should almost expect to find a suitcase next to our high value targets.

Next February, AETC will not delay an FPCON exercise like the one we just wrapped up for similar weather conditions. Also, if someone wants to plant bomb I doubt they would care about the weather.

If we increase our situational awareness during the simulated manmade threats like bombs or natural threats like tornadoes, we will be that much closer to knocking the inspection out of the park.