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Hawkins: McChord's AFSO 21, 2 EAS initiatives impressive

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash., -- Maj. Gen. James Hawkins, 18th Air Force commander, is briefed by Richard Arnold, right, 62nd Maintenance Squadron, on McChord's Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century initiatives on Feb. 13. (U.S. Air Force photo by Abner Guzman)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash., -- Maj. Gen. James Hawkins, 18th Air Force commander, is briefed by Richard Arnold, right, 62nd Maintenance Squadron, on McChord's Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century initiatives on Feb. 13. (U.S. Air Force photo by Abner Guzman)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash., -- "The 62nd Airlift Wing is in great shape," said Maj. Gen. James Hawkins, 18th Air Force Commander, during his recent visit here. 

One thing that impressed the general was the way McChord's Airmen are trying to take Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century to the next phase through base-level innovations. 

"The maintainers showed me how they are working on a process to turn a C-17 faster," he said. "I think they do it now in 3 hours and 15 minutes," General Hawkins said. "They are going to get it down to 2 hours, allowing us to use the same airplane three times a day." 

General Hawkins has high praise for this initiative, calling it a "really smart way to do business." 

"The other thing you all showed me that was really impressive was that the maintainers are going to be able to use a wireless net out on the airplane to order parts right while they are on the airplane to fix it." 

The base's use of a two expeditionary airlift squadron system is also cause for kudos, according to General Hawkins. The system has been a success for a couple of reasons, he said. 

"It allows me to deploy an entire squadron with its leadership, so I have the squadron commander and flight commanders who know their people," said General Hawkins. "It increases safety and operational effectiveness." 

The general noted that the system is also a little easier on the spouses. In the past, the units were gone for about 3 weeks at a time and would deploy again almost immediately after returning home. 

"Now they know they are going for 120 days. The data seems to support that they are home more. From an Air Force perspective and as a tax payer, it's saving us money," he said. 

General Hawkins enjoyed seeing the base overall but his favorite part was getting to spend time with McChord's spirited Airmen. 

"The people here are really professional," he said. "You can see people are excited about what they are doing, excited about serving their country and being the very best they can. It excites me to be around them." 

Chief Master Sgt. Brye McMillon, 18th AF command chief master sergeant, said he enjoyed the personal aspect of his visit to McChord as well. 

The Airmen here weren't asking me, "Can you improve my dorm room," he said. "They were asking me 'How do we make the mission work?' For me, it's very exciting, because it shows me that they are excited about the mission."