Aviano streamlines reintegration process

Deployment Reintegration

An Airman and Family Readiness representative briefs returning deployers during a mass reintegration event, Nov. 9, 2017 at Aviano Air Base, Italy. After the brief, service members were sent down the hall for several medical checks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cary Smith)

Deployment Reintegration

Master Sgt. Robert Bailey, 31st Comptroller Squadron financial services flight chief, provides instruction to returning deployers during a mass reintegration event, Nov. 9, 2017 at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Returning deployers completed briefings during one half of the day and financial processing the other half. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cary Smith)

Deployment Reintegration

Airman from the 555th Fighter Squadron and 31st Maintenance Group complete travel vouchers during a mass reintegration event, Nov. 9, 2017 at Aviano Air Base, Italy. This was the first year the 31st Comptroller Squadron assisted with processing financial deployment travel vouchers in a remote location. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cary Smith)

Deployment Reintegration

The 31st Comptroller Squadron financial services flight provides financial processing instruction during a mass reintegration event for returning deployers, Nov. 9, 2017 at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Approximately 12 agencies assisted 379 Airmen in a consolidated, mass reintegration to streamline the process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cary Smith)

Deployment Reintegration

Airmen from the 555th Fighter Squadron and 31st Maintenance Group receive an in-processing briefing during a mass reintegration event, Nov. 9, 2017 at Aviano Air Base, Italy. A team of base agency representatives consolidated reintegration efforts into a single location to expedite the process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cary Smith)

Deployment Reintegration

The 31st Medical Operations Squadron provided more than 350 immunizations to returning deployers during a mass reintegration event, Nov. 9, 2017 at Aviano Air Base, Italy. This marked the first time at Aviano where all reintegration agencies were centrally located in the same area to expedite the process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cary Smith)

Deployment Reintegration

Returning deployers receive laboratory bloodwork during their mass reintegration, Nov. 9, 2017 at Aviano Air Base, Italy. The Airmen returned from a six-month deployment to Afghanistan and processed back into the wing with the help of several base agencies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cary Smith)

Deployment Reintegration

Airman 1st Class Shawn Soroka, 31st Aerospace Medical Squadron medical technician, provides an immunization shot to a returning deployer during a mass reintegration event, Nov. 9, 2017 at Aviano Air Base, Italy. The Airmen returned from a six-month deployment to Afghanistan and processed back into the wing with the help of several base agencies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cary Smith)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- Reintegration, the process where service members check back in to their home station, can sometimes take several days.

Recently, almost 400 Airmen returned from a six-month deployment in Afghanistan. Each member needed to complete an in-processing checklist before they were able to enjoy two weeks of rest and relaxation.

Aviano pulled together to create a new process, a one-stop shop to save time for everyone involved. Mass reintegration has happened before, but Aviano has never tried something like this.

“Returning deployers have four days to complete the in-processing checklist, and two of those days are for decompression,” said Staff Sgt. Nicole McClelland, 31st Force Support Squadron Personnel Reliability Accountability Program manager. “The last thing we wanted was to have these Airmen try and visit all the different offices in such little time.”

McClelland headed the effort and coordinated with more than a half-dozen squadrons to figure out how best to shave off in-processing time. The team consolidated seven different agencies, put them in one area of the base and scheduled time blocks so that all the deployers had to do was show up on time with their paperwork and equipment.

The reintegration team provided checklists as soon as the Airmen landed, freeing up time for the returning deployers by not requiring them to pick up the lists at their respective squadrons.

“We walked up into the plane, made our announcements and handed out the papers,” said McClelland. “For the reintegration part, we separated the returning Airmen into groups of up to 100 personnel depending on their last name.”

Two days after landing, the first groups of Airmen walked into one of the two areas.

One area was for Airman and Family Readiness Center briefings, medical checks, and individual protective equipment turn-ins. The other area was for finance to help process travel vouchers on the Defense Travel System.

“Vouchers are used to track expenses during official travels such as a deployment,” said 2nd Lt. William Mitchell, 31st Comptroller Squadron financial services flight commander. “After looking at different solutions on how to provide help for 379 vouchers, our finance office decided to set up laptops at the remote site where the mass reintegration was held.”

Supporting hundreds of personnel at a remote location requires space for 45 computers and access to the base network.

“The 31st Maintenance Squadron maintenance training section and the 31st Communications Squadron were a huge help to this whole operation,” said McClelland. “The maintenance training section provided us with spare rooms to link up, Comm came in, set up all the laptops on the network and troubleshot any issues.”

The finance portion started with some learning curves, as the first group of 35 took over an hour to complete.

“It was our first time providing this type of effort to this many people at once,” said Mitchell. “The whole process was a great way for the finance team to come together, evaluate our efforts and make small improvements.”

By the time the last group of 48 sat down to complete their vouchers, Mitchell and his team had the process down to 45 minutes and needed three fewer finance personnel to help.

While one group of deployers received a walk-through of DTS and how to properly complete their travel vouchers, another group was in a different room for everything else.

One hundred Airmen listened to in-processing briefings from various agencies while a team of medical personnel positioned themselves down the hall, waiting with syringes and prescription medications.

“Mass reintegration is nothing new for the medical group as we’ve provided support to large groups before,” said Tech. Sgt. Tiffany Knight, 31st Aerospace Medical Squadron force health management element NCO in charge. “We knew we would see about 200 people a day, we planned for that and had everything in place.”

To plan accordingly, Knight communicated with public health, laboratory, immunizations, pharmacy, dental, and other medical agencies to know exactly how many medical personnel they would need to process everyone.

“We knew how the groups were separated and what names would come first, so we had the correct labels, vaccines, dental records, you name it, we were ready,” added Knight.

All in all, what could have taken each member days, took the reintegration team 20 hours to process 379 personnel.

“Approximately 27 hours were saved by each returning deployed member, a huge benefit when you know during this whole process they’re looking forward to those two weeks with family and friends,” said Mitchell.

McClelland added that by handling a mass reintegration in this way, it benefitted all parties involved.

“This reintegration involved so many people from all over the base. It was wonderful to see everyone working together, adjust their office hours and manning to give world-class support to these men and women so they could go home to their families.”