JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Innovation, cost effectiveness and time saving can come in many shapes and sizes in the Air Force. At McChord Field, one tool in the tool belt falls under the 62nd Airlift Wing's Manpower Office.

The Continuous Process Improvement program offers three courses of varying depth that teach how to look at the way things are done in a unit and see if they can be improved or updated. It offers a brief awareness overview at commander orientations, a one-day, eight-step Practical Problem Solving Model Course and a five-day Green Belt class, currently unavailable as it is being updated, that is intended to take people beyond the initial eight steps.

"The Air Force CPI program is about helping to reduce waste and improve processes in organizations," said Bryan Dochnahl, 62nd AW Manpower Office's wing process manager and CPI instructor. "Everything it boils down to is improving our combat capability."

The wing's manpower office offers the problem solving course quarterly to anyone who would like to attend, up to about 20 people per class, but for some squadrons it isn't always easy to find the time to go. To help mitigate this issue, Dochnahl and other CPI instructors also offer to teach the course to squadrons at any time and location that is convenient for them.

Master Sergeant Candace Helder, 627th Logistic Readiness Squadron logistics plans superintendent, asked Dochnahl come and teach the one-day problem solving course to her squadron.

"Being a retrainee myself and having an abundance of retrainees, a lot of the time we have fresh eyes on things," Helder said. "I know they like to implement new processes, and in order to do that we need to make sure we're implementing them the right way."

Whether the audience is from maintenance, medical, finance, logistics, etc., the class offers insights into how different squadrons can improve the processes they have in place.

"I don't change the curriculum or anything because it's all the same tools and they could be applied across any Air Force (career field)," Dochnahl said. "In addition to the quarterly class this year, we've taught the 627th Civil Engineer Squadron, 62nd Aerial Port Squadron, 62nd Maintenance Squadron, 62nd Medical Squadron and now the 627th LRS, and it's all the same class. I would say in the last five years we've probably put through close to 400 Airmen for the one-day class."

Helder thought the class had a lot to offer junior enlisted Airmen.

"I do appreciate how some supervisors brought their members in," Helder said. "I think many times, until you get to a certain rank, you do not truly understand what supervisors have to go through or what they are trying to do to better processes."

Dochnahl also believes the class is beneficial for younger Airmen, but hopes everyone who goes through takes away at least one thing.

"The realization that we can do things smoother and better," he said. "It's not hard to improve our processes. Just because we are doing something this way today, doesn't mean we have to do that same thing tomorrow.

"Honestly, it's one of the reasons I like to see younger Airmen in our class. They have a little bit more of an open mind about it. I like to see them challenging the way we do things so we can do it better tomorrow."

The CPI courses offer several tools to help students learn how to improve processes in their unit, including group activities that open their eyes on spotting shortfalls and the best ways to implement change.

"The group interactions work instead of death by PowerPoint," Helder said. "Breaking out into groups is definitely a good thing. You start to see how things aren't always so black and white. When others start to view your processes as we continue to go along, I think we'll probably identify where we have some weaknesses and can do better."

As an instructor, Dochnahl looks forward to one particular aspect while he teaches the class.

"That 'Aha!' moment," he said. "When I see someone in the class who has been pushing back but by the end of the day they go, 'Oh, I get it,' that is probably one of the cooler things about being an instructor. If I reach a student, I know they are going to go back to their organization and start challenging and pushing the way we do things."

It can be easy to accept things as the way they are because they have always been done that way, but the CPI courses taught by the wing's Manpower Office challenge Airmen to think outside the box and improve the Air Force from the bottom up.

If you or your squadron are interested in attending one of the CPI courses, call Bryan Dochnahl at 253-982-6546.