Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.- It's a familiar sight, an inspector with a clipboard runs down a checklist. Speaking to a maintenance soldier, he asks to borrow a tool he's missing. For this part of the roleplay, the inspector said he's from another unit and lost the tool in the last exercise. The soldier tells the inspector that he can't sign the tool out to him.
The inspector snaps around and with more urgency sets more of a scene -- they are in the middle of Ft. Irwin, California and a vehicle, necessary for a no-fail mission, is down and the tool he needs is not in his tool box. It's imperative that he gets the tool to complete the repair.
The soldier scrambles to look through his memos and regulations to figure out what to do about this situation, which the soldier is now internalizing. Frantically, the soldier asks for a life line. After getting permission for the inspector, the soldier turns to his chief warrant officer for direction.
"We don't inspect, we evaluate," said Sgt. 1st Class Dustin Forgey from the U.S. Army Ordnance School. "If we were inspecting, we would be making sure that you are following the rule, but this is a competition. Units have to be following the rules to not be disqualified."
Forgey is one of the Department of the Army evaluators who visited 308th Brigade Support Battalion's maintenance shops for the Army Award for Maintenance Excellence competition. The 308th BSB is competing in the Active Army Medium Category, putting their motto, 'Pride in Performance,' to the test.
"[The AAME] started in 1982," explained Forgey. "It's a competition based on different size categories and unit make ups. The unit puts together a packet [and after] a board, evaluators do an onsite evaluation to score each unit and select a winner for each category and an overall winner."
"There are a lot of systems that get neglected due to the operational tempo," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeffery Stepanoff, the 308th BSB's chief automotive maintenance technician. "This is a useful tool for us to make sure the commander's maintenance program is running in accordance with regulation."
Stepanoff said that his maintenance soldiers learned a great deal during the U.S. Forces Command and DA evaluations. Because the soldiers are directly evaluated, it gives them the experience and chance to practice talking through and performing their jobs. He added that they worked hard to learn the regulatory guidance behind what they do during day-to-day activities.
The chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Mark A. Milley, said at an April 2016 U.S. Army Reserve Command Senior Leader Conference, that readiness of the Total Army is his No. 1 priority.
The U.S. Army Ordinance School's AAME work to help ensure readiness across the force, according to their website. They have made that clear in two of their primary objectives. First, improve and sustain field maintenance readiness and, second, assess the maintenance component of unit readiness.
"The fact that the command is embracing, owning and wanting to strive for excellence, sends a message across the formation that they care about Army readiness and maintenance," said Stepanoff.
He was proud to note that the 308th proved they have the top maintenance program in their category on JBLM during their many rounds of AAME evaluations.