Guard unit gives digital dashboard a test drive

Using a desktop computer, a wing commander can access the digital dashboard with Macromedia's Flash Player software.

Courtesy of California Air National Guard

When a military aircraft is shot down, rescuing survivors is a critical mission. A California Air National Guard unit is testing a Web application that will give it an edge in keeping aircraft and crews ready to find and recover aviators.

'We are the combat rescue operation for Air Force Special Operations,' said Capt. Christopher Myers, assistant director of operations for the 129th Rescue Wing at Moffett Federal Airfield, Calif.

Planes and people

The squadron is testing and helping to fine-tune a new digital dashboard that combines data from different sources and lets the squad's leaders assess in real time the readiness of its planes and personnel.

One of the biggest challenges facing wing commanders is keeping track of the status of the unit, Myers said. They need to know the location of all equipment, its condition, maintenance required and the personnel available.

The 129th, for instance, flies more than 10 aircraft. Several of the planes might be unavailable because they've been loaned to other units, need maintenance or are already deployed. Commanders also need to know the status of all personnel who support the unit'pilots, maintenance workers, medics, administrative employees and communications experts. Before the squadron began using the dashboard, data about each of those functions came in separately.

'Right now, the way most organizations present information, there's a Monday morning meeting, and they all bring their Microsoft PowerPoint slides,' Myers said. 'It's reactive information, not dynamic [or] proactive. Then somebody else has to correlate all these slides,' so the wing commander can get an overall picture.

Myers said the digital dashboard also streamlines cumbersome processes such as the handling of performance appraisals.

'Commanders like to know the status of the performance appraisals of their subordinates'who's overdue, how many are due in 30, 60, 90 days, the class of employee, whether officers, enlisted personnel or technicians,' Myers said. 'Right now an Excel spreadsheet goes out, [but] with the dashboard, by clicking on the performance appraisal button, you can find out who's overdue and who the rater is. It improves accountability.'

The software was developed by Macromedia Inc. and Aviamedia, both of San Francisco.

From a desktop computer, a wing commander can access the digital dashboard using Macromedia's Flash Player software.

There are refinements to the prototype in the works, Myers said. 'This is the commander overview. The next step is to take it to the group commander level, design dashboards for those groups [and] include other functions,' he said.

With the successful completion of the proof of concept stage, Myers said, the application is ready for consideration by the headquarters staff of the California Air National Guard.

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