It is no secret that competition motivates individuals and groups to assess themselves and improve. Because competition can cultivate superior performance, the Army has traditionally encouraged competition among its ranks in an effort to push Soldiers to improve themselves and their organizations.
In the maintenance realm, the logistician's version of the Best Ranger Competition is the much coveted Army Award for Maintenance Excellence (AAME). Conducted annually, the AAME competition is a superb tool for senior leaders to use to both assess and improve maintenance operations at the unit level. Despite its low visibility and limited participation, the AAME serves as a model of how competition can improve the standards that units uphold.
The AAME Program
The AAME program was created to annually recognize Army activities and units that have demonstrated excellence in maintenance operations. The primary objectives of the program are to assess the maintenance component of unit readiness, improve efficiency, recognize outstanding unit maintenance accomplishments, and improve field maintenance readiness. Each year, a unit may compete in the small (10 to 100 authorized personnel), medium (101 to 300 authorized personnel), or large (301 or more authorized personnel) categories. Each Army command may nominate only six units to compete for the award. This typically creates subcompetitions at lower echelons, allowing units to compete within divisions, brigades, and battalions.
During the first stage of the competition, a unit must prepare documentation (based on competition guidelines) that summarizes the maintenance activities of the unit. Developing the “AAME book,” as it is called by those who compete, is essentially an opportunity for the unit to highlight all of its accomplishments and praiseworthy activities over the last fiscal year. When the book is complete, it is submitted as a nomination packet to Headquarters, Department of the Army (HQDA), which then selects units for an onsite evaluation.
After a unit is selected for evaluation, a team from HQDA visits the unit and conducts an indepth inspection of all maintenance-related activities conducted by the unit. Some of the areas covered during the inspection include dispatching procedures, services, weapons maintenance, hazardous-materials handling, motor pool operations, master driver programs, and nuclear, biological, and chemical room operations.
|A mechanic with D Company, 634th Brigade Support Battalion, Illinois Army National Guard, removes
half-shaft bolts from a high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle at a motor pool in Hohenfels, Germany, during a 3-week annual training mission. (Photo by SSG Kassidy Snyder, Joint Force Headquarters, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs)
The Program's Benefits
The AAME competition is valuable to unit leaders because it provides them with an opportunity to take an indepth look at their maintenance operations. Although the command inspection is a valuable tool for fixing deficiencies, the AAME program forces competitors to examine in great detail every aspect of the maintenance operation, including areas commonly overlooked by command inspections.
With each command wanting its subordinate units to win the competition at the Army level, inspection teams in echelons below HQDA typically are composed of the most knowledgeable and skilled experts in the command. For example, in fiscal year 2009, the U.S. Forces Korea inspection team consisted of six individuals with over 100 years of combined experience in maintenance operations. This gave competing units the opportunity not only to be critiqued but also to receive guidance on methods of improvement from experts in maintenance operations.
Command interest is one of the primary catalysts for a unit in striving to improve. This is true in any work environment; however, the aspect of unit pride in competition is a second motivating factor that contributes to improvement. Competing in the AAME truly unifies a unit toward a single goal—victory. Results vary on a case-by-case basis, but the common factor among competitors is that the entire unit shares a stake in contributing to maintenance excellence at the unit level. This promotes esprit de corps and encourages each Soldier to contribute to the unit's improvement.
A Lack of Publicity
The AAME program's biggest weakness is its lack of visibility. The program itself does not have a website that summarizes it clearly and concisely. The only available information on the Internet is on the Ordnance Corps and School website, and the regulation covering the program provides limited detail. The lack of easily accessible information on the AAME program is its largest flaw since this limits the number of participating units.
Units that do not participate in AAME miss the benefits they would gain if they competed. This is not only because they will not be visited by experts but also because AAME encourages parent units to assist subordinate units in improving their operations. Units with proactive chains of command that provide hands-on help for competing units are enthusiastic about the competition.
If more visibility and awareness of the AAME program allows for more participation at the company level, subsequently resulting in more involvement from parent units, the Army as a whole will benefit. If more units examine themselves and fix their deficiencies through competition in programs such as AAME, logistics and technical capabilities will improve across the board.
For the Army as a whole to gain the most benefit through this program, the manner in which commands encourage subordinate units to participate in the AAME program must be reassessed. This must begin with a stronger publicity campaign within major commands to promote more widespread awareness of the program. Army logisticians who are aware of the program should encourage their units to participate. The Army Training and Doctrine Command should incorporate a short block of instruction on AAME into the basic officer leader and captains career courses so that leaders will gain awareness and encourage their units to participate.
With increased participation throughout the Army, maintenance operations will improve and all Soldiers will reap the benefits of being in units that strive to achieve maintenance excellence.