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The Benefits of Participating in the Army Award for Maintenance Excellence Program

One responsibility of leaders is to build and maintain an effective maintenance program. With frequent deployments, transformation, and dwindling budgets, this task can be overwhelming. In the post-deployment environment, you will probably find that your unit’s maintenance program needs a little attention. The good news is that programs such as the Army Award for Maintenance Excellence (AAME) competition will assist you as a leader in refining, or even building from the ground up, an organized, highly resourceful maintenance operation that ultimately enhances readiness.

As both a recent winner and runner-up of the AAME competition, I found myself in a good position to write about the critical steps necessary to participate in the competition. However, when I sat down to put my thoughts on paper, I quickly realized that participating in the AAME competition was never about winning an award. Of course, the recognition the maintenance team receives is nice, but truthfully, competing was mostly about validating our maintenance operation and our ability to provide the commander with the maximum amount of combat power. The benefits received from competing outweigh the satisfaction of winning.

Command Emphasis

Participation in the AAME competition demands command emphasis. When an organization’s senior leaders are involved, leaders at all levels will be involved. Command emphasis is a critical ingredient to establishing an organizational culture that highlights the necessity of a rock-solid maintenance program. The AAME competition allows you as an organization to place a great deal of emphasis on areas that typically do not gain your full attention.

A leader’s days are busy, filled with countless tasks. In fact, supervising maintenance and properly training our Soldiers require a significant investment of time by a leader. A chain of command that expects all leaders to ensure the complete readiness of all equipment and charges them to train subordinates in correct maintenance procedures is critical to sustaining a successful maintenance program that supports a high state of readiness. The AAME competition offers senior leaders an opportunity to validate the role that their junior leaders play in day-to-day maintenance activities.

Verifying Unit Efficiency

Participating in the AAME competition allows units to establish and verify processes that streamline operations and maintain efficiency. As my unit prepared to participate in the AAME competition, we strove to increase maintenance readiness by implementing innovative techniques, updating maintenance standing operating procedures (SOPs), and continuing the maintenance education of all Soldiers within the battalion.

To stay on the cutting edge, we employed the Balanced Scorecard—a strategic management tool that allows the unit to monitor present performance and capture information about how well the maintenance team is positioned to perform in the future. An underlying goal of incorporating the Balanced Scorecard was to turn the organizational vision, mission, and strategy into action. We were able to encompass four fundamental areas: the warfighter’s (customer’s) perspective, the financial perspective, our internal business processes, and the learning and growth perspective. By assigning performance measures to each perspective, we identified our maintenance program’s strengths and weaknesses. This, in turn, allowed us to institute processes that would improve our weaknesses while sustaining our strengths. Essentially, it was through our preparation for the AAME competition that we realized that some of our internal processes needed improvement.

Building a Maintenance Program

If you are in the beginning stages of building a maintenance program, use existing methods, such as the AAME competition, to validate your progress. Instruments like the one used to prepare for the AAME competition allow you take a closer look at your program, and they guide you through the process. I recommend that you allow the AAME process to serve as your foundation. You will establish a doctrinally correct maintenance program that meets regulatory guidance. Doing what is right from the beginning is always far easier than correcting significant wrongs that have existed for a long time. The process also will assist you in establishing SOPs, command maintenance operations, maintenance training programs, service schedules, and day-to-day maintenance procedures that sustain combat readiness.

A competent maintenance team is critical to a unit’s ability to accomplish a mission successfully. The Army has many units that excel at “fixing” things. The AAME competition does more than just validate that you can fix things. The units that stand out as the best of the best are the organizations that combine maintenance competence with improved operational readiness, using sound maintenance practices. Having a competent maintenance team that can repair equipment is critical. However, repairing equipment in an efficient manner that creates an environment that supports growth, innovation, acceptable use of resources, and mission accomplishment is far more important to the long-term success of an organization.

Soldiers are our greatest assets, and with frequent deployments resulting in increased time away from home, we seek to maximize our Soldiers’ skills while maintaining predictability.

Whether you participate in the AAME competition as a foundation to build a new program, to validate the current readiness posture of your maintenance program, or to win it all, I believe you cannot go wrong. The competition aspect of it alone will drive your unit’s maintenance program to achieve the highest level of success. As leaders, you should seek to develop your operations in a way that improves and sustains readiness, encourages innovation, and increases the quality of our program. The AAME program is a preexisting mechanism that can help you achieve all of those goals.

Chief Warrant Officer (W–4) Richard C. Myers, Jr., is the proponent officer for the Warrant Officer Career College at Fort Rucker, Alabama. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration and is a graduate of the Warrant Officer Basic and Advanced Courses and the Intermediate Level Education Course at the Army Command and General Staff College.

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