Wing temporarily stands down to refocus

C-5 aircraft line the tarmac, April 25, after missions were cancelled for a safety stand down. Wing leadership called for the stand down after a number of challenges were identified as distractions to safe flying. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

C-5 aircraft line the tarmac, April 25, after missions were cancelled for a safety stand down. Wing leadership called for the stand down after a number of challenges were identified as distractions to safe flying. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

Martinsburg, W.Va. -- The 167th Airlift Wing instituted a safety stand down April 24, taking a break to re-valuate and refocus on the mission in interest of flying safety.

In the process of converting to the C-17 Globemaster III, wing members are experiencing challenges from the reduction in force, new training requirements and learning new financial processes and regulations.

"Our operations group stood up and told me that they need to step back and re-focus, which is a good thing," said Col. Shaun Perkowski, 167th Airlift Wing commander. "In my experience in other wings, the stand downs usually come after something was broken or someone was hurt and that's not our case."

Perkowski said several of those challenges and opportunities converged all at once, creating a "perfect storm" of responsibilities which can be overwhelming when every task becomes a priority.

In addition to self-evaluation, the wing leadership requested subject matter experts from the Air National Guard headquarters to also assess their processes.

Col. Thomas Tralongo, deputy comptroller for the Air National Guard, and several other finance experts conducted a staff assistance visit with the 167th Finance Office to see if there were any shortcomings and determine if they were a contributor. Tralongo said he was pleased with what he saw and didn't find any major technical issues.

"They are fully knowledgeable and have the tools to support the organization to their best ability," said Tralongo. He added, "it's a good office and good group of people." He said they addressed some questions regarding travel processes and now everyone is on the "same sheet of music."

Col. Edward Vaughan, director of safety for the Air National Guard, said the wing did the right thing in taking a few days to address human factors that could jeopardize their mission.

"Risk management is everyone's business," said Vaughan. "Every Airman has an important role to play in our mission execution; if something doesn't look right or is creating a big distraction, say something."

Perkowski said all of the feedback he received inside and outside of the state regarding the stand down has been positive, with commanders recognizing the wing facing challenges head-on and seeking improvement.

"We will be a stronger wing," said Perkowski, adding, "this gives us the opportunity to step back, take a deep breath, fix and improve processes, and learn how to work better toward our common goal of defending this great nation of ours."