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Q.A. for a Day – a safer, better Air Force

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Cesar J. Navarro
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs

The 18th Maintenance Group supports the 18th Wing’s mission non-stop, with over 2,300 aircraft maintainers supporting 18,000 flying hours annually. Due to the vast amount of members and all the different jobs needing completion, accountability and safety are monitored by a third party outside of the shops – enter the 18th MXG Quality Assurance.

Working in QA is unique in that inspectors are hand selected by their squadron leadership based on their expertise and application in their respective fields.

On a monthly basis, the QA section hosts maintainers from the many different shops for QA for a Day, an inside look into the work and mission of QA evaluators.

Spending a day alongside QA evaluators is meant to help maintainers and their evaluators grow in understanding of one another in order to efficiently accomplish their missions. 

“The goal of the program is to get rid of the misconception about QA only being here to report the bad news,” said Tech. Sgt. Jose Jimenez, a quality assurance evaluator with the 18th MXG QA. “We’re not coming after people, we’re just trying to keep people safe.”

QA evaluators not only inspect equipment management processes and organization, but also the varying methods implemented by the 18th MXG to maintain all aircraft on base.

“We’re basically the eyes and the ears of the commander,” Jimenez said. “We are tasked to evaluate how the maintainers are doing in regards to safety and quality.”

The QA for a Day program was implemented by Tech. Sgt. Irene Terry, a quality assurance evaluator with the 18th MXG QA, to familiarize Airmen, especially newer ones, to the processes and the evaluators of QA. She was inspired by her previous base – RAF Lakenheath – where QA let maintainers follow them to see their work from a different perspective. This helped her learn a lot as a senior airman at her shop and motivated her to start the program at Kadena in October 2019, she explained.

“It allows personnel to know what type of inspections we are required to do and some specifics that we are looking for,” Terry said. “It gives us, as an inspector, time to sit down with these individuals and read references, teach and answer questions.”

One of the issues QA for a Day seeks to fix is the anxiety and nervousness some maintainers have when they're getting inspected. A lot of times the failures aren’t due to individuals not knowing their job, but rather to them getting anxious when somebody is placed next to them to evaluate their work, Jimenez explained.

 “We have different sections in QA. We have fighters, back shop, muns’ and heavies,” Jimenez said, who was selected from his previous career in avionics back shop to work for QA.

“Our main goal is compliance,” Terry added. “We know that people make mistakes, but getting them back on track is the most important aspect of why we do what we do.”

Building rapport and establishing familiarization helps diminish that stress between the inspector and the inspected, Jimenez explained.

As QA, the evaluators are directly in charge of updating inefficient processes and making all aspects of the Air Force better as a whole. So for QA evaluators to personally see the improvement in their relationships with maintainers and the work of said maintainers, the experience can be very rewarding, Terry said.

“Part of our job is to identify trends, and within a few months of QA for a Day being implemented we saw a decline in a lot of deficiencies throughout the entire MXG,” she explained.

QA for a Day has created a positive change in the way maintainers and QA effectively and openly communicate amongst each other.

“It helps with the relationship between the units and all of us as inspectors,” Terry said. “People are willing to learn and QA as a whole is ready to share as much information as possible to ensure that we can accommodate the mission effectively.”