149th Fighter Wing NCO receives top award for IDEA

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain
  • 149th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The Department of the Air Force and the Air National Guard awarded $10,000 to Master Sgt. Edward Montalvo, a Texas Air National Guard F-16 fuels systems technician assigned to the 149th Fighter Wing, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, for a proposed change to a maintenance procedure that is projected to conserve over $180,000 during the first year of implementation.
     The Innovative Development through Employee Awareness, or IDEA, program is an Air Force initiative that provides monetary incentives for military and federal civilian employees to identify process improvements. With this type of input, the Air Force can create greater efficiency, and leverage or save resources. The program's slogan calls for "improving tomorrow's Air Force with today's ideas."
     The IDEA program considers proposals from across the Total Force, including all work-centers, whether the change would affect an office environment, outdoor procedure or a flightline operation, etc. Approved submissions may provide tangible or intangible benefits and savings to an Air Force function, and monetary awards typically range from $200 up to the $10,000 maximum payout.
     While performing a scheduled inspection, Sergeant Montalvo discovered a cracked in-flight refueling induction coil plate. The coil plate provides for the critical communications link between the F-16 pilot and fuel boom operator during an IFR maneuver. Instead of singularly replacing the $2,000 coil plate, the technical order calls for the complete removal of a parent assembly that costs over $20,000 and 24 man-hours.
     Montalvo explained that the fuels systems community is relatively small, and said that he is in frequent contact with others in the career-field. "This is something we've seen over time that needed to be fixed," said Montalvo. After reviewing the TOs closely, he worked with quality assurance personnel to submit the proposed changes through the Internet-based IDEA Program Data System.
     Master Sgt. Joel Hernandez, the QA inspector that oversees the IDEA program for 149th Maintenance Group, explained that this particular submission "took over a year to be approved, and is the first one submitted by the 149th to receive the max award." He said the unit typically submits over 100 IDEA proposals each year, with an approval rate exceeding 60 percent. While considered high, it does not indicate the additional submissions are without merit. Sergeant Hernandez explained that the other 40 percent are "usually already identified by another unit or the program's manager."
     Sergeant Montalvo's initiative has directly led to the implementation of a new repair protocol that will be employed Air Force wide. When discussing his submission, he said "I knew it was important, but didn't know how big [the award would be]." Beyond the financial prize, Sergeant Montalvo said he is honored to help others in his career-field to be able to do their job more efficiently.