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NEWS | Aug. 21, 2008

HAWC aims to improve processes, increase efficiency

By Meredith Canales 37th Training Wing Public Affairs

Surrounded by large pieces of butcher paper with Magic Marker scrawlings, charts and graphs, large binders, and snacks and drinks, and cloistered in a back room in the base multimedia center, a team of Lacklanders participated in an Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century event July 30 through Aug. 1.

"We started the event looking at workload in the Health and Wellness Center, and it grew to looking at the fitness program across Lackland," said AFSO21 program manager Jerry King. "We looked not at the requirements of fitness but the administration of the fitness program and the number of hours we use across the wing and Lackland for administering the program."

During their three days of brainstorming, the group, which consisted of HAWC staff and physical training Leaders across Lackland, the group identified significant problems within the administration of the fitness program. They began by identifying problems.

"So far I think it's pretty useful," said Capt. Wendi Sazama during the first day of the event. "We're just kind of outlining the process and determining any ways it can be improved. Where the problem sits is a lot of the resources are being funneled into the 9 percent population of the Air Force that's obese and the larger percentage that's overweight. I hope we can work to get a decrease in that number and see fewer resources put toward the problem and more resources put toward prevention."

Mr. King said one of the main problems at the HAWC is standardization.

"If everyone's doing it the same way, then you know exactly what happens in the process and you can start building on those best practices," he said in a post-event meeting. "Each of these units has great ideas about how to do the process. Some are using spreadsheets, some Access databases, and one of the things we looked at was trying to pick out the best things people have and incorporating that across the board."

Another problem that was identified during the meeting was the profiling of injured Airmen.

"When someone is injured and cannot fully perform physical training, he goes to the HAWC to get an exercise prescription," said Mr. King. "There has been an inconsistent way of notifying this person that someone has been put on profile. The guy who does this spends about 100 hours a month working profiles. By streamlining some of the issues, we should cut about 20 hours of work out of what he's doing. We're going to do a follow-on AFSO21 event out of this issue alone."

The HAWC staff agree that the profiling system is a major problem that needs to be overhauled.

"The problem with the profiling system is twofold," said HAWC Flight Commander Maj. Cynthia Mitchell. "The first problem is that the member knows that the PT test is coming up and doesn't want a test, so perhaps it's a way of getting out of the test. The second problem is that perhaps the member has been leading a sedentary lifestyle, knows the test is coming up and gets an injury because of overuse in the short period of time leading up to the test."

Major Mitchell said she hopes that the HAWC's role will go more toward prevention.

"Our role is not tertiary care. Once someone has a problem, he comes to the HAWC. We need to get on the other side of that bubble and prevent problems from happening. The more people we can educate and turn into advocates, the more we can change the culture and make fitness a part of the daily lifestyle."

Mr. King sees each AFSO21 event as a small piece of a much bigger puzzle.

"Every time I do one of these, I think about a Roman aqueduct," he said. "It was a great engineering feat, the forerunner of all indoor plumbing. Well, now, all these years later, our problem is water conservation because we have so much water readily available. We've changed our problem. The same thing happens when we look at continuous process improvement. A great idea starts with laying a single stone."