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How to Ace the UCI

Maj. Robert McMurry, 
18th Operations Group

Maj. Robert McMurry, 18th Operations Group

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- In preparation for the Unit Compliance Inspection and Aircrew Standardization and Evaluation Visit in August, the 18th Operations Group received a Pacific Air Forces staff assistance visit inspection. During the visit, I was reminded of some lessons in military inspections that I have learned over the years, and a few I had to relearn. 

The last major inspection for many of us was the 2008 Operational Readiness Inspection. The UCI is a different animal entirely. As the title says this is a "compliance inspection" and focuses on our processes, how well we follow Air Force Instructions and how well we track what we are required to do. The first hurdle is to show the inspectors exactly how we are in compliance - and presentation matters.

Objective and subjective measure - Presentation matters
Do not mistake this section for "fluff matters." Inspectors will see right through fluff. You have to follow the AFI guidance and provide evidence that you are following that guidance. Many times it is perfectly clear to us that we follow a particular regulation, the problem is, the inspectors don't know that. We have to use documentation to show them we are compliant with AFI guidance. First of all, each of us has a functional at the major command who has the actual checklist they will use to inspect. Get your hands on that checklist. This is one test where we are given the questions months in advance. Our answers will be graded both objectively and subjectively.

The objective part of the inspection is fairly straightforward. The questions on the checklist are right out of the AFI. For example, "per section 1.2.3 Does the operations supervisor track pilot landing currency?" One technique might be to simply answer the question "yes" and move on to the next question. This is wrong. It probably seems plainly obvious to you that you comply with that particular requirement. A better way to answer the question highlights the subjective part of the inspection. 

How you present it matters - this is where you get to tell your "story." Given enough time, the inspectors could come in, snoop around for a bit and discern what areas are shiny spots and what areas need work. This is the last thing we want to happen. As we lean forward and engage the inspectors, we can guide and focus their gaze. Continuing the example above, a more complete answer is: 

Yes - Here's why...in accordance with AFI section X, paragraph Y we are required to comply with this task (track pilot landing currency). 

1. How you accomplish the task
(Pilots enter accomplished training items into the tracking database; 1CO's ensure pilots make an entry after each flight) 

2. How often you accomplish the task
(1CO's reconcile the data and ensure it is entered into ARMS daily) 

3. Here is a checklist we use to ensure each step is accomplished
(1CO and operations supervisor checklist examples would go here, maybe out of a continuity book) 

4. Here is the source documentation and how you use the information
(Examples of the entry forms, currency printouts, etc.) 

5. Contingency planning - Here's what we do to ensure oversight and here's our backup plan in case this system is down. 

We want to lean forward - highlighting strong areas and speaking to the areas we are improving. Not all areas will need that level of a detailed answer, but it is a good starting point. Nor will all areas be answered with a resounding "yes." Some "no" answers will be inevitable. Make sure you have a detailed answer to those. More importantly, make sure you demonstrate a plan to rectify the discrepancy. You might be waiting for a new system, there might be conflicting guidance, or the source AFI is changing to reflect a new reality. In any case, demonstrate you have thought about the problem and have a plan. Simply put, leadership at all levels will move us from an excellent to an outstanding in the UCI.

The next step - Leadership
There are some items you don't do, some items you comply with, but think they could be done better, and some items you think could go away completely. Get rid of them or change the requirement, but do it right. Work through your chain of command up to your MAJCOM functional now to get an exception to policy or waiver. Better yet, fill out an AF847 to change the regulation. If what you are required to do is not advancing the mission or adding any real value, then take a leadership role and work to get rid of the requirement. Some requirements may be redundant; others may have been eclipsed by a new technology. For example, we no longer shuffle hard copy performance reports around or keep flight evaluation records on floppy disks. Find the floppy disks in your organization and get rid of them, the right way. 

This is leaning forward and meeting the UCI head on. If you are on your heels, you will get "rolled" over in the first five minutes and spend the rest of the inspection playing "catch up." 

Finally, if you want a shining example of how to tackle the inspection, stop by the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron Aircrew Standardization and Evaluation. They received great kudos for their performance in our recent Aircrew Standardization and Evaluation Staff Assisted Visit. They engaged the inspectors, presented their program in a logical fashion (with fully detailed checklists similar to the one above), and staked out a leadership position in areas that needed work. If we follow their example, we will succeed this fall.