Inspectors general seeking to shed negative image
STUTTGART, Germany — They used to be the ones who stuck the bayonet into the wounded; that was the reputation, anyways.
The white glove sweeping for dust; the surprise “gotcha” inspections. But now, their targets are corruption, unprofessional behavior and indiscipline.
From white glove to white hats — that’s what Europe’s inspectors general want to be, according to those who attended a rare gathering Tuesday and Wednesday in Stuttgart.
“Now, we’re more in an assist mode,” said Army Col. Michael P. Anderson, inspector general at the U.S. European Command, who called the meeting. “No-notice inspections — we don’t do them. Our intent is to help units.
“It’s a culture change.”
It was the first time in five years that the few, proud, Europe-based inspector generals convened to exchange business cards and issues.
About 30 IGs and law-enforcement types met over 1½ days at the Mercure Fontana hotel in Stuttgart-Vaihingen. They came from all four service branches as well as adjoining units such as the Heidelberg-based European Regional Medical Command.
Most of them work alone or in small, insular groups, but said the conference connected them in a brotherly, sisterly way, and created a network of IGs who can turn to each other when the going gets tough.
“When you’re so new and still trying to find your way, this helps out a lot,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dorothee Smith, the medical command’s noncommissioned officer in charge at its IG shop.
None of the inspectors general are professional rabble-rousers.
They’re plucked from their normal service specialties to serve stints of two years or so, and then either retire or return to their former job.
Smith worked in the radiology department at Heidelberg Army Hospital. “When I’m done with this after two or three years, I’ll go back out into the regular-Army world,” she said.
“It raises your awareness, so when you do your teaching or training and are helping soldiers from the beginning, maybe we’ll avoid certain mistakes and conflicts.”
While they’re trying to promote a positive, helping image, some inspectors general still focus on hard-nose inspecting.
In the Air Force, for example, the process of taking an order to putting bombs-on-target still requires airmen to take precise steps.
Officers have lost their jobs because inspections did not go well, according to Col. Scott Gillespie, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe inspector general.
But he added that the rigorous inspections take into account the tempo a unit has been enduring.
“What we’re looking at reflects the commander’s policy at that time,” Gillespie said.
“We take into account the workload and make sure we don’t test them beyond the breaking point.”
But many inspections are now requested of IGs by commanders as a sort of performance audit, Anderson said.
His team recently conducted a survey of the 300 employees at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch — at the request of the center’s director.
“You don’t really need someone from the outside picking on you,” Anderson said.
“But sometimes you do need assistance from an outside team.”
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A story Sunday on the Installation Management Command Europe’s Camp A.R.M.Y. Challenge should have said that 220 slots are available to middle- and high-school pupils to the North Sea for sailing, to Heidelberg, Germany, and to a coastal island.
The trips are for children of recently deployed or deploying troops.
Another 300 slots are available as part of weeklong garrison specialty camps for all school-age children.