Refining organizational structure improves readiness, development for 388th maintainers

  • Published
  • By Micah Garbarino
  • 388th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah – By flattening its organizational structure and empowering more officers to lead, the 388th Maintenance Group has boosted its readiness levels, and is better able to focus on developing and serving Airmen.

Nearly three years ago the 388th MXG underwent a massive shift in the way they do business. They dissolved the 388th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and stood up three separate fighter generation squadrons to pair with the 4th, 34th, and 421st Fighter Squadrons.

The fighter generation squadron (FGS) is a somewhat new concept in the Combat Air Force and the 388th Fighter Wing was one of the first places to convert to this structure and it has seen significant success from the beginning.

“The FGS structure has accelerated our ability to pursue important initiatives, support Airmen, and operate at a heightened state of readiness,” said Col. Jeremy Anderson, 388th Maintenance Group commander.

So, what is an FGS and why does it matter?

“A Fighter Generation Squadron is made up of maintainers responsible for the generation of safe and reliable aircraft,” said Maj. Cahn Wadhams. “The FGS is a smaller, more agile unit that gives commanders the ability to focus on fleet readiness, resourcing, discipline, and team cohesion.”

Each FGS is made up of approximately 200 Airmen. Prior to the reorganization, the Aircraft Maintenance Squadron had more than 900 Airmen, split into three Aircraft Maintenance Units, and only one commander.

“It was extremely difficult to know my Airman, strengths, weakness, blind spots and capabilities,” said Lt. Col. Richard Palz, 388th Maintenance Squadron commander and former AMXS commander. “I would then deploy those Airman, handing them over to an expeditionary commander who was essentially a stranger. The FGS construct solves that problem, we live, we train, we fight all together.”

“As a large AMXS, the commander is really kind of separated from the Airmen and from what’s happening at a tactical level,” said Maj. Melissa Glindmeyer. “You just don’t have the bandwidth to know everything that’s going on. Your aircraft maintenance unit officers and your director of operations are usually the ones doing that.”

After three years, the move away from the AMXS to the FGS structure is paying off for the 388th with healthier squadrons, more connected commanders, and higher readiness levels.

“The expectation is that you as a commander, know your people. I have Airmen that came from a traditional AMXS, and I think they’re blown away by how often they see their commander.” Glindmeyer said.  “There’s also an expectation that you know the status of each of your aircraft. There’s a real sense of ownership when the span of control isn’t so huge.”

Anderson refers to his FGS Commanders as “tactical commanders,” emphasizing the role of each commander to leverage their skills and experience as senior aircraft maintenance officers to mentor and develop their teams to maximize readiness and combat capability.

As the Air Force has transitioned to the Air Force Force Generation (AFFORGEN) model for squadron readiness, the switch to the FGS structure has been extremely beneficial for the 388th. AFFORGEN puts each of the wings three fighter squadrons in different phases of the deployment cycle – “prepare,” “ready,” “available to commit,” and “reset.”

“This is the coolest thing about the FGS structure to me,” Glindmeyer said. “As an AMXS commander I would be trying to serve three different fighter squadron commanders in three different phases of readiness. They all have competing needs and different personalities. Balancing that can be tough. With the FGS, I am paired up with a fighter squadron commander and we work together nearly every day.  We deploy together. We’re a team. At the strategic level, that’s huge.”

“As a commander, I am able to move out and really make a difference in my individual squadron,” said Wadhams. “We are getting experience in providing our squadrons with a strategic plan and outlook and really able to be involved in all the details of every TDY, every deployment, every exercise.”  

The new FGS construct does add some complexity to the maintenance group command structure, Palz said. However, those challenges have largely been overcome and the gains for both operations and maintenance have outweighed any difficulties.

“We have a strong team and we collaborate closely among the commanders to solve problems for the squadrons, the group, and the wing,” he said.