51 FW completes inaugural Green Belt training

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ashley Mikaio
  • 51 Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Members of the 51st Fighter Wing demonstrated their commitment to innovation by attending the inaugural Green Belt training at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, May 23-31.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Connelly, 51st FW innovation officer, led the week-long continuous improvement class, teaching members the frameworks that enable them to improve their set of circumstances in the workplace. The class provided a no-rank, no-uniform environment, helping members fully focus on the structured problem-solving techniques Green Belt offers.

“How are we going to make mustang nation [51st FW] better, given all the challenges we have here?” asked Connelly. “One way is to have an innovative culture that can leave it better than we found it. Green Belt gets after the education piece to that.”

The 51st FW leadership is actively fostering a culture of innovation directly in line with the 2022 Nation Defense Strategy which states a need to optimize for innovation. While the Air Force does not define innovation specifically in any regulations, the main focus can be summarized by the term “new.”

“What that means in layman’s terms is new stuff,” said Connelly. “There’s going to be a little bit of risk associated with it but it’s probably going to make things better.”

Osan has a unique set of challenges in that 80% of individuals assigned rotate out of the base within a year. Teaching Airmen how to overcome those challenges by finding the root cause of an issue versus pointing out the symptoms will lead to more effectives solutions.

The 16 students of the Green Belt course learned about these techniques by running hands-on scenarios. After failing in the first scenario, the class had to rely on their new-found tools to find the root cause of the issue and re-run the scenario with their implemented solutions. It was vital to work together and use everyone’s perspective to see improvement.

“I think collectively sharing our ideas and thoughts is the best way that we can get after real change,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Natalello, 51st Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle management superintendent and Green Belt attendee. “We have to put our minds together instead of being tied to an AFI [Air Force Instruction] and ‘this is the way it’s always been.’”

The structured problem-solving techniques taught in Green Belt are great for the Air Force, according to Connelly. The class is relatively low-cost, focuses on the methodological and can lead to legitimate favorable gains in cost, quality and speed for an organization.

When asked if Natelello would recommend this class to other people on base, the answer was an enthusiastic yes! “100%! And not just to a specific rank,” said Natelello. “I think it’s really important to get our junior enlisted Airmen and Guardians in these courses because I've seen the newest Airmen bring the best concepts to the picture because they don’t have the bias.”

With more Green Belt training being held throughout the year at Osan, more Airmen will have the opportunity to arm themselves with these problem-solving techniques and gain new perspectives on how involved the task can be.

“My hope is that our students will learn that changing systems take a lot more effort than we think,” summarized Connelly. “We want to make sure our Airmen are equipped with the right tools.”