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Small idea makes big impact for 97 TRS students

a man talking to a few people

Members of the 97th Training Squadron pose in front of the new student kiosk system, Jan. 10, 2019 at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. The system answers frequently asked questions and allows students to in-process into the 97th TRS more independently with its touch screen controls. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)

a man talking to a few people

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. T.J. Shanks, commander of the 97th Training Squadron, talks to members of the 97th TRS about how important innovation is for the Air Force, Jan. 10, 2019 at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. Shanks gave this speech after the grand opening of the new student kiosk system which started as a small idea within the squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)

a man talking to a few people

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. T.J. Shanks, commander of the 97th Training Squadron, watches the reveal of the new student kiosk system, Jan. 10, 2019 at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. The 97th TRS in-processes around 2,100 students a year and the kiosk will assist in giving information to them more efficiently. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)

a man talking to a few people

Master Sgt. Shevaun Reighter, superintendent of the student training flight assigned to the 97th Training Squadron, peels off the protective covering of the new student kiosk system, Jan. 10, 2019 at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. The touch screen system allows students to check schedules, schedule leave and check frequently asked questions such as where certain locations are or when classes start. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

The 97th Training Squadron just made it that much easier to get information as a student.

When an Air Force aircraft needs to refueled in flight, they rely on a KC-135 Statotanker to get the job done. When the Air Force needs supplies and materials transported all over the globe, they put their trust in the C-17 Globemaster III. When it comes time for Airmen to fly those aircraft, they utilize the training at the 97th Air Mobility Wing.

Every step of training in the military begins with a first step: in-processing. That means a handful paperwork for every service member.

“In an average year we have 2,100 students processing through for initial qualification,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. T.J. Shanks, the commander of the 97th Training Squadron. “That adds up pretty quickly and can keep our administrative folks pretty busy.”

Every student who comes through the 97th AMW for training must in-process with the 97th TRS. With the influx of new students in the squadron, it is easy to get overwhelmed with piles of paperwork and basic questions such as where places are or where students need to go. These questions are typically answered by the experts at the student training flight.

“When we’ve got people who have been in the Air Force for 15 years stuck telling people where the bathroom is, we know their time could be better spent,” said Shanks. “That’s what inspired an idea to change the way we do things.”

Now when new students enter the TRS, they will see a kiosk with two large screens. These screens serve as a source for information for Airmen such as where frequently visited locations are or what times classes are, and the system serves as a way to request leave as well.

“They serve as a digital administrative assistant,” said Shanks. “It gives the students a large amount of freedom and ease of access. Any question they have can be answered right there, either at the kiosk or by the experts sitting right next to it.”

The Air Force’s focus on innovation played a big part in getting the new systems in place according to Shanks.

“With the Air Education and Training Command pushing a culture of innovation, it’s easy to encourage new ideas to come forward,” said Shanks. “Students were in-processing the same way I was when I came through before this system. It didn’t take long to find a problem, but the hard part is getting the solution. The Air Force is full of problem solvers; it’s up to us to let them work.”

While it may seem small to some, an innovation like this can send ripples through the Air Force.

“Everything we do here at Altus goes all over the Air Force,” said Shanks. “You find C-17s and KC-135s everywhere and all of those crews came through the 97 TRS. If we can make the process slightly better, faster or more efficient then we’re on our way to helping fulfil the Air Force mission.”

With the addition of the kiosks, the 97th TRS fully embraces the culture of innovation in the Air Force and have taken another step toward modernization in to better assist our Airmen of the 97th AMW.