Solving Problems

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374th Airlift Wing Helping Agency matrix.
374th Airlift Wing Helping Agency matrix.

Solving Problems

by: Senior Airman Delano Scott, 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs | .
Stripes Japan | .
published: May 05, 2016
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- The Air Force lifestyle is a demanding one. Airmen endure many challenges each day in exchange for securing the freedom and interest of our nation. The ability of Airmen to rise above the challenges that face them and make their job look easy is a testament to their character and resilience. However, sometimes when legitimate workplace issues arise that one may not be able to overcome on their own, they remain unresolved.
 
Many times, unresolved issues stem from the "suck it up" attitude Airmen instill in themselves when getting accustomed to the military life. Yet, when Airmen don't confront the grievances they may have, not only will the problems continue to persist but issues may continue to get worse.
 
CHAIN OF COMMAND
 
Fortunately, Airmen have a wealth of opportunities to have workplace issues addressed and resolved. The most effective place Airmen can start is with their chain of command.   
 
"The most important thing is talking to the frontline supervisor about anything; good, bad, indifferent, it doesn't matter," said Master Sgt. Michael Pertain, 374th Forces Support Squadron and Wing Staff Agency first sergeant. "Talking about those things so a supervisor gives them an opportunity to communicate with you and share what they know. Based on a question you have or if you have a grievance, your frontline supervisor can start the legwork to try and get your issue resolved."
 
In instances where Airmen don't work directly with their supervisor, Pertain noted that it would be more effective to instead reach out to their shift supervisor or shift lead.
 
"Some people may work nights while their supervisor work days," Pertain said. "However, whatever that first line or first step for you is, be sure it's with the person that's directly responsible for you when you're working."
 
If it's a personal matter, one may feel uncomfortable speaking with their supervisor or shift lead. They may rather speak with a chaplain, first sergeant or even a commander, given the gravity of a situation. Whatever the case, Pertain insisted that it's always best to notify the first person in one's chain of supervision.
 
"It gives them an opportunity to help too," Pertain said. "It gives them a chance to support you even if you're not talking to them specifically. You might think my chain of command doesn't need to know these things so I'm not going to tell them, yet, if they don't know these things, they don't have the opportunity to support you."
 
In cases where one's chain of command is the issue for the individual, there are other alternatives individuals may seek, including the Inspector General. However, before Airmen go outside of their chain of command, Pertain insisted that they try each link in the chain and don't give up.
 
"If the individual's chain of command is the issue, have they been made aware of that issue?" he asked. "Did your supervisor have an opportunity to discuss or remedy the situation? Did your supervisor, the flight chief, the first sergeant, the chief or the commander have an opportunity to address your issue before you went outside the chain of command? Simply: if you don't give your chain of command an opportunity to resolve any issues you have, they can't."
 
INSPECTOR GENERAL
 
The primary purpose of the IG complaints section is to handle issues that could not be resolved through one's normal chain of command. They work to ensure issues are addressed in a fair, thorough and timely matter.
 
"We're here to assist in any way that we can," said Lt Col. Jason Jaeger, 374th Airlift Wing Inspector General. "If someone has a problem or complaint that they need to get off of their chest, we want to hear it, so we can get them the assistance they need."
Airmen who choose to come forward and voice a concern are protected. This means it is illegal for one to prevent another from seeking out the IG or to retaliate against them for speaking with the IG.
 
"If there's any reprisal or retribution from an individual's leadership following a complaint, we would get involved," said Mr. David Taynton, 374 AW Director of Complaints Resolution. Military members have Whistleblower protection under 10 USC 1034, and civilian employees have similar protections from reprisal for having made a protected communication to an IG or member of congress."
 
If an individual does have a complaint they would like to make, the IG complaints section will take the necessary steps to ensure they're available.
 
"We can meet you at your office, the food court, anywhere where you're going to feel comfortable speaking," Jaeger said. 
 
Once a complaint is filed, the section performs a complaint analysis. There are five paths available to the complaints department, according to AFI 90-301: dismiss, assist, refer, transfer, and investigate.
 
The final path, "Investigate", refers to reprisal or restriction. In the event that reprisal is allegedly committed against a person for having gone to the IG, or if an individual is restricted from coming to talk with the IG, or otherwise make a protected communication, the IG may elect to investigate.
 
"We want to ensure that Airmen are being taken care of," Jaeger said. "The IG might not be the solution in itself but we work to find the right solution." Just coming to the IG does not automatically generate a complaint. People can contact the IG for advice, or to get more information on how the process works before deciding to file a formal complaint. Complaints filed anonymously will be kept anonymous to the fullest extent possible.
 
Complaints can be filed in just about any form. The IG ask that complainants submit AF Form 102, either electronically or paper copy, or phoned in to the 374 AW/IG Fraud Waste or Abuse Hotline at 225-2000.
 
For more information on the IG, contact the complaints resolution office at (315) 225-7262, email 374awigq@us.af.mil or visit them in building 314, room 107.
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