By Scott Prater
Imagine this scenario: an Airman calls home and informs his spouse he won’t be able to pick up junior from football practice because he’s busy preparing for the upcoming Consolidated Unit Inspection.
His spouse responds by asking, “You’re being inspected? Big deal. Why is this inspection any more important than your regular duties, and how long will this be going on?”
Schriever’s Airman and Family Readiness Center has prepared a pre-inspection briefing for members, spouses and families that provides valuable insight into inspections. They’re scheduled to deliver the briefing to 4th Space Operations Squadron spouses and families Friday, and plan to do the same with more units as the wing prepares for its upcoming CUI.
Master Sgt. Ryan Devine, 4 SOPS first sergeant, enthusiastically agreed to bring the briefing to his squadron after learning its content.
“I think it’s very important for families to understand the AF inspection process,” he said. “Inspections add a significant demand to our active-duty personnel, and there are times when families may not understand these demands.”
Devine contends that providing some education to families on what AF leaders expect from service members through the inspection process is important.
“It not only helps the family members understand the process, but also helps them to understand the long hours that their loved ones work to prepare for inspections,” he said. “This ultimately helps the service member and their family cope with this stressful time more effectively.”
Loura Winkels, community readiness consultant, has delivered the briefing many times during the past few years as inspections have come and gone.
“Many times, especially as units prepare for and endure an inspection, families learn that what is going on at work oftentimes doesn’t stay at work,” she said. “Unit members may have to stay late to work on a program or units may hold exercises that take longer than anticipated. These types of events tend to have a tremendous impact on the family.
The key for mitigating a good portion of that impact is to maintain good communication. Unfortunately, many of us fall short in that regard.” Briefers take attendees through a wide variety of topics and explain the inspection process in simple-to-understand terms. They also answer some questions that members may have a tough time answering such as: Why does the Air Force need to conduct inspections; why is everyone stressed by an inspection; and what would happen if the wing failed an inspection?
Winkels said she and her counterparts at the A&FRC have gathered, edited and combined what she believes is the best information from previous family inspection briefings in preparation for this one.
She’s confident it explains some easy-to-confuse concepts and terms like the different types of inspections, from operational readiness to compliance and consolidated inspections. Briefers also explain the difference between inspections and exercises and how one helps prepare units for the other.
They also help inform families of what they can expect to see during the next few months as the 50th Space Wing prepares for its CUI, such as longer lines at base entry gates, 100 percent identification checks, random vehicle checks, unannounced sirens and mock traffic accidents.
Winkels stressed that a better informed spouse and family will not only provide direct benefits to the family unit, but will benefit the Air Force member as well.
“If families understand that stress is going to be created by this inspection, then households have a chance to deal with that stress in a healthy way,” she said. “We try to offer some resources for families to take advantage of as a means for coping.”
The ultimate goal, Winkels hopes, is that families develop an understanding about the inspection process, become informed about what to expect and remain flexible.
“It’s easy to dismiss the impact to the family because they aren’t directly involved, but if a member comes home to a peaceful environment, then chances are they are going to perform better in preparation for and during the inspection,” she said.
Unit leaders who would like to organize a spouse and family pre-inspection briefing should contact Winkels at 567-7391. Spouses who would like more information on preparing their families for an inspection should contact their unit key spouse or call the Schriever A&FRC at 567-3920.