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News | Sept. 24, 2015

AOTS takes safety personally

By Stephen Hickok DCMA Public Affairs

“Fully immersed and free from distraction,” said Defense Contract Management Agency director Air Force Lt. Gen. Wendy Masiello during her opening address at the agency’s annual Aircraft Operations Training Seminar. After four years of virtual training, the August 2015 safety stand down for Aircraft Operations returned to a brick and mortar venue.

Mike Cumbie, DCMA Aviation Safety Program manager, explained the reasoning behind the change, “There is only so much you can do under a virtual format, and we have leveraged our agency and Department of Defense virtual tools to the maximum. Lt. Gen. Masiello recognizes the importance that AOTS plays in sustaining our safety culture and allowed us the opportunity to bring back the brick and mortar conference.”

“One team, one voice, all safe” was the theme for this year’s event with the goal of fostering an organizational safety culture, ensuring policy compliance and providing legal consultation for the AO community. All of that boils down to what Cumbie calls “focused training that sustains our positive safety culture.”

Over 130 AO personnel attended the three-day event held at the Leesburg National Conference Center. The seminar featured a variety of lectures, training, subject matter expert panels, and small-group breakout sessions. The annual AO awards were also presented recognizing the top military and civilian contributors to aircraft operations and the warfighter.

Marc West, contract safety manager for DCMA Special Programs West, was recognized as the 2014 Outstanding Contract Safety Specialist.
Agreeing with the director, West reiterated the value of training face-to-face, “Without a venue like this we are distracted with day-to-day emails, phone conversations and getting stuff done.”

Collaboration is also a benefit. “What we talk about are real issues. We don’t get to collaborate like this on a daily basis,” said West. “To get away and put us all together and say ‘Hey, here are some problems, you guys are the resident experts, solve them — how can we get from point A to point B?’”

Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Lou Wilson, government flight representative for Aircraft Integrated Maintenance Office Crestview, sees AOTS as a yearly tune-up. “You’re working hard all year long to make sure the contractor is compliant delivering a quality project and then AOTS is that event dedicated to DCMA personnel so we can continue to learn. This is important because when you’re out at the contractor’s facilities, you have your regulations, you have the contract and you have the contract’s procedures, but sometimes you may not have all the expertise you need to interpret those regulations. AOTS gives us a chance to ask questions — to validate — and get advice from senior leaders.”

Summed up by West and Wilson, the benefits of the in-person AOTS were shared by most of the attendees. According to Cumbie there was a lot of enthusiasm in the group, “We received a lot of positive response. The overall impression was positive and everyone liked the venue.”

Networking and collaboration even works for the organizers of AOTS. Cumbie says that during the seminar they were able to identify guest speakers for next year’s event that will enable this group of professionals to continue to safely deliver quality aircraft to our warfighters.