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New alternative work schedule offers many benefits

(U.S. Air Force graphic)

(U.S. Air Force graphic)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Starting July 17, the 162nd Fighter Wing will adjust to an alternative work schedule for our full-time force.

In order to mitigate safety issues associated with the 12-day work cycle caused by a drill weekend, our full-time Guardsmen will earn a scheduled day off, or SDO, every pay period in exchange for slightly longer work days.

Our drill status Guardsmen understand this issue all too well. On Mondays they return to their civilian jobs and work 12 days in a row with seldom a day of rest to break up the long stretch. For that, I sincerely thank them for their service.

However, for the full-time force that produces about 60 F-16 training sorties every day, two weeks without a day off could have a negative impact on morale and raises significant safety concerns.

To alleviate the risks brought on by worker fatigue we have traditionally taken the Monday after a drill weekend as a no-fly day. These Mondays always present two unfavorable options for people - either take leave or show up for a relatively unproductive day of work when most customer service functions are closed.

Neither of these appropriately meets the intent of our no-fly days, so we looked into a variety of alternative work schedules authorized by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for a solution that does.

We assembled a working group comprised of commanders and supervisors from every group. After examining several options, they proposed a 5-4/9 plan in which people will work eight 9-hour days and one 8-hour day per pay period with one day, usually a Monday, taken as a scheduled day off.

Holidays, technician pay periods and the unit training assembly schedule will dictate which days are scheduled days off. Most of the time they will be Mondays, occasionally they will be Fridays - rest assured everyone will be issued a schedule for adequate planning.

This same plan is in place at virtually all other Air Guard F-16 units across the country, and many Army and Air Guard units across our state are implementing it as well.

As a standard, Active Guard Reserve members and Air Technicians will work 6 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. with a 30-minute lunch break. The Friday of every five-day work week will be an 8-hour day from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The core hours for all sections with customer service functions will be 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

I leave it to supervisors to work with individuals for variations and determine how best to man their sections to cover their core business hours. There will be exceptions made for individuals who demonstrate a true hardship caused by the new schedule. These will be considered on a case-by-case basis; however exceptions will not be long-term solutions.

Of course, this change will not affect those who have special shift requirements like security forces, civil engineers and firefighters to name a few.

Also, it will have little effect on unit training assembly duty hours. Attendance and work schedule requirements for the majority of full-time and part-time members on drill weekend will remain as they have always been.

We're going to give this schedule a 90-day trial period to ensure it provides us adequate throughput for student production and sortie generation. At the end of the trial we'll look closely at our productivity and feedback from you.

I encourage you to talk to your supervisors about how the schedule works for you. Is the work load manageable? Do you like the days off?

As an added benefit to this plan, scheduled days off will help conserve energy costs for members and the unit. There will be fewer commutes per month for you and the unit will save energy resources while facilities and equipment on base are shut down.

Overall, this new schedule will meet our intent to provide a safe and healthy work environment for everyone. Its success hinges on our ability to communicate this plan effectively across the wing, its associated units and to our customers and families.

To help with this, the wing Vice Commander Col. Ted Maxwell will hold a number of briefings in the base auditorium in building 1 to explain the 5-4/9 construct. Dates and times will be announced base wide. All of our members are invited to attend one of these. Please come with your questions in hand.

Thank you for your flexibility, and have a safe and restful SDO.