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Tinker's Supply Chain Management Wing responsible for parts that keep planes flying

By KATHRYN MCNUTT | The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City | Published: October 22, 2017

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (Tribune News Service) — When people think of Tinker Air Force Base, they picture huge aircraft undergoing maintenance and lifting off the runway in a roar.

"You don't think of the Supply Chain Management Wing," said Col. Hilary Feaster, vice director of the wing. But maintenance and flight wouldn't happen without that organization.

"I consider us the unsung heroes, of not just Tinker Air Force Base, but really of the Air Force logistics organization as a whole," Feaster said.

It's the 448th Supply Chain Management Wing that ensures every base across the Air Force has "the right parts on the shelf to support their everyday flying operations."

"Somebody's got to forecast what's required for them to make repairs," Feaster said.

Making sure the required parts — for aircraft, engines, intercontinental ballistic missiles and more — are available when and where they are needed takes hundreds of civilian and military men and women working in three time zones.

"Although we've got the presence at Tinker, we're a virtual organization," Feaster said. In addition to the wing headquarters and two groups at Tinker, there is a group at Hill Air Force Base in Utah and a group at Robin's Air Force Base in Georgia.

Together they work to plan what parts will be needed and to find the best source for those parts, whether it's purchasing new parts from a contractor or choosing to repair parts returned from the field.

"With the age of our fleet comes a lot of structural issues," Feaster said. "We're making sure we are anticipating what failures might happen with structures, then getting with either our capability to repair or build here or going out to the civilian workforce or commercial industry."

'Significant impact'

A total of $24.5 million was awarded to Oklahoma-based contractors through the Supply Chain Management Wing in fiscal year 2017 — $1.2 million in small business contracts and $23.3 million in large contracts.

"That's going right back into the local vendors here in Oklahoma," Feaster said.

Add to that the paychecks issued to more than 1,000 civilians and 14 military employees who make up the 448th workforce at Tinker.

"We do have a pretty significant impact on the state of Oklahoma," Feaster said.

"A trained and experienced workforce is essential to what we do every day," she said. "We have got a really strong program of pathway interns recruited right here in the state of Oklahoma."

Interns are important because they become the employees who stay and work for years, said Greg Davis, public affairs specialist. Military personnel are moved frequently, so they cannot provide that long-term staffing, he said.

Dru Ann Perrier, flight chief in sourcing operations, rose through the ranks over 18 years at Tinker and at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. Perrier said data is tracked to alert personnel to problems that bring down optimum results in the parts acquisition process. Anyone in the organization can see at any point "how the workload looks today."

"It's all about work in progress and flow days," Perrier said. A shorter time to delivery saves money, she said.

One major difference of forecasting and sourcing parts for the Air Force, compared with doing so for commercial industry, is the return-and-repair piece of the puzzle.

"We're not just always buying new. We're also dealing with that repair aspect," Feaster said.

As good stewards of government funds, the first choice is to repair if possible.

"We base everything on the need and then adjust and make the right decisions on what to buy to ensure the highest level of readiness for our force," Feaster said.

"This organization is thinking about what's going on across the Air Force and trying to make the best decisions for the entire fleet."

©2017 The Oklahoman
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