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21st Space Wing reaches inspection milestone

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 21st Space Wing was recently recognized by the Air Force Inspector General as the first active duty or Reserve wing in the Air Force to fully implement the Air Force Inspection System and become commander's inspection program capable.

Leveraging an outstanding test bed effort on the part of U.S. Air Forces in Europe units, the 21st Space Wing achieved this milestone in February of this year.

"We worked aggressively on the implementation of this new system within our wing," said Col. John Shaw, 21st Space Wing commander. "I am proud of the accomplishments of the 21st Space Wing and our IG team and look forward to improving our mission effectiveness through this inspection system."

The AFIS is focused on assessing and reporting on a unit's overall readiness to execute their assigned missions. The assessments are conducted regularly from within the organization, which is an adjustment from the previous system of bi-annual inspections conducted by an external organization.

"The old system focused on an external team assessing our units. It showed compliance at one given moment in time," said Shaw. "The AFIS is focused on gauging the wing's ability to self-assess on a regular basis - it is looking at what units have done to review, assess, and improve their programs since their last inspection."

The system is seen as a much-improved process to the previous style of inspections, especially with its emphasis on placing responsibility in the hands of commanders and directors.

"This is proving to be fantastic; I am very excited that we are moving in this direction," said L. J. Van Belkum, 21st Space Wing inspector general. "The responsibility for conducting internal inspections is acknowledged as a commander's role, which is what has always been true."

With inspection oversight being recognized as the unit commander's responsibility, there is also increased information flow and more timely corrective responses to issues on a regular basis. It ensures units are mission and inspection ready at all times.

This constant self-assessment also helps Airmen within each unit as well. Under the previous system, inspection preparation created a bi-annual strain, which could interfere with an Airman's focus on the day-to-day mission.

"The frantic preparation was unsustainable. You can't maintain at that speed and expect to stay mission ready and focused. Everyone was exhausted by the end of our most recent Consolidated Unit Inspection; the AFIS is designed to eliminate that," said Van Belkum. "Now instead of just a snapshot of where our compliance is at one given moment, it's more of a photo album spanning two years, looking at what units have done to maintain their programs since their last inspection."

In order to aid in this constant self-assessment, the wing has created a strategic plan to execute the AFIS.

"Our plan leverages multiple ways of assessment and reporting over time," Shaw added. "We have a rigorous two-year plan at squadron, group, wing and external levels to achieve this plan."

Units will also use the Management Internal Control Toolset to help streamline and create a more user-friendly process for maintaining and reviewing records as needed.

"This is a far better system; we were one of the first wings to start using MICT and we are looking forward to the way ahead," added Van Belkum.

"While we know we don't have this AFIS 100 percent right, we are on a good course to meet its intent of improving operations within the wing," said Shaw. "I know we have the right people armed with the plan and tools needed to maintain this success and look forward to continued development of the AFIS."

More information on the AFIS can be found in Air Force Instruction 90-201 on the Air Force e-Publishing website.

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