Commentary

December 21, 2012

10 ways to dazzle the IG during an inspection

retired Maj. Gen. Mark Zamzow
Former commander, U.S. Air Forces Africa

What you consider as your worst nightmare is coming to fruition: The Inspector General is coming to your unit to conduct a periodic readiness or compliance inspection!

Apprehension, worry, fear, anxiety and tension float through the wing like a thick fog as questions arise in everyone’s minds. What will the IG expect of me?
What will they focus on? Are those “black hat” inspectors going to intentionally intimidate me? Is there enough time to prepare? What happens if we bust? What do we need to do to succeed? Help!

Wait a second, rewind the tape and let’s take another look at this. Is the IG’s visit really a nightmare, or is it a blessing in disguise?

Everyone in today’s Air Force needs to realize that a routine inspection of any type is in fact a “good thing.” It is in reality an opportunity–a chance to:

  • Conduct a detailed scrub of your regulatory compliance and mission capabilities
  • Identify and fix discrepancies, problems and weaknesses
  • Improve morale and teamwork by rallying behind a common near term objective
  • Demonstrate your unit’s ability to support the warfighter
  • Validate just how good your unit really is

Prior to the big inspection, units should educate themselves on the rationale and positive reasons behind the inspection, motivate each other to dig deep into their processes and procedures, train extensively to ensure everyone is up to standards, and fix all the things that are weak or broken.

As part of this process, it is critical that a thorough self-inspection, beyond routinely scheduled self-inspections, be conducted. This will sometimes illuminate more flaws in the armor than you ever imagined.

You should never forget that all the answers about the way things should be done are already out there in the form of laws, Air Force Instructions, policy letters, operating instructions, tech orders, self-inspection checklists and more. Consequently, the inspections really are “open book tests” right up to the time the inspector sets foot on your installation.

Additionally, don’t forget that up to the time the IG arrives on base, they really act as a “white hat” organization. In case you’ve forgotten, the IG is comprised of top tier functional experts who want to help you prepare for and pass your inspection with flying colors.

The IG also wants units to know their expectations about the inspections, so there shouldn’t be any surprises. Therefore, folks should still always feel free to call the IG office, find the functional inspector who has the expertise on the subject you’d like to discuss, and ask those questions.

The IG wants you to succeed because it helps our Air Force sustain the highest readiness levels possible — that’s the business we’re all in. It also makes our job easier when units are on top of their game.

Now, with that “inspection preparation time warp” complete, it is finally time for the real thing: the chance to show those IG toads just how “Outstanding” you really are. All those preparations were certainly successful and all you need to do now is establish the right mindset.

Here’s what I call the 10 best ways for inspection participants to dazzle the IG:

  1. Competence -know your job inside and out, and perform those duties to the best of your ability despite the inspection scenario or the inspector’s glare
  2. Responsiveness – show that “sense of urgency” during every waking moment; lean forward in those starting blocks and then realistically propel yourself into every activity
  3. Attitude – display a positive attitude, recognize enthusiasm is contagious, and that problems always arise in the “fog of war” and they can be overcome
  4. Readiness – ensure your personal bags are packed, mobility requirements are current, the paperwork/processes in your work section are in perfect order, and you have trained effectively so you can infallibly perform your duties in peace and war
  5. Aggressiveness – react authoritatively with Ability to Survive and Operation (ATSO) skills in attack scenarios and with Self Aid and Buddy Care in medical emergencies. Effectively continue mission essential activities in all FPCON levels and treat inspections and exercises as the real thing.
  6. Appearance – look people in the eye, pop that sharp salute, and exceed those standards for uniform, boots and hair
  7. Safety – approach duties with a safety-oriented mindset, know when not to press forward on actions because they’re unsafe, and apply operational risk management (ORM) techniques to accomplish the mission
  8. Leadership – lead by words and actions, formally and informally by motivating, communicating and setting a positive example
  9. Followership – follow taskings and orders quickly and effectively, employ teambuilding skills, and always keep the “objective” in sight
  10. Pride – visibly exude pride in yourself, your unit, your mission, and your base: Looking Good, Feeling Good, Being a Winner

If you scan through those 10 items again, you’ll notice those attributes should not only shine through for the IG’s visit, but are integral to the fabric of our Air Force culture as well. Clearly, they apply far beyond inspections as the foundation of “normal ops” every day of the year.

So in the future, when your unit is under the IG’s inspection microscope, channel that apprehension and fear toward productivity, positive thinking, and action. And, when the inspection starts, grab that inspector by the collar and say, “Follow me – I want to show off exactly why we are OUTSTANDING!”

Editor’s note: Commentary was slightly adjusted to reflect base-wide participation.




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