Human Performance Optimization: innovation to prioritize Airmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Christopher Campbell
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Over 70 Team Mildenhall personnel filled the hallways of the 100th Maintenance Group building in anticipation for the opening of the Human Performance Optimization (HPO) room Feb. 8, 2023.

U.S. Air Force Col. Gene Jacobus, 100th Air Refueling Wing commander, cut the ribbon for the HPO room, unveiling a brand-new resource for Team Mildenhall Airmen.

HPO nicknamed “Hippo,” is a program within the 100th MXG geared towards all specialties that work on the south side of base but is open for all Airmen across the installation.

“This program centers around resiliency and taking care of our people,” said Senior Master Sgt. Patricia “Patti” Jones, 100th MXG senior enlisted leader. “We wanted to create a safe space and provide a location where Airmen can come to if they seek guidance or resources.”

The program was created to address 100th MXG Airmen’s concerns about having to travel across base for finance appointments or pre-deployment briefs.

“I have found Airmen tend to shy away from things that are going to be inconvenient or may take them out of work because they don't want to cause issues within their work centers,” said Jones. “With these resources readily available here, Airmen can take 15 to 20 minutes and can go seek guidance for their needs here, instead of driving to the other side of base.”

There will now be permanently assigned personnel in the MXG building as a resource for Airmen on the south side of base. The room includes an office space to accommodate any of the staff working that day, ranging from a chaplain to Military and Family Readiness Center staff.

“Our assigned chaplain will be working in the HPO room full time,” said Jones. “Though the room is not strictly for that single purpose, it gives Airmen a private area and an essential resource within an arm’s reach.”

Team Mildenhall hones its mission statement: Airmen, Readiness and Culture, in guidance of Air Force leaders like Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass, who prioritizes the needs of Airmen and the goals for the future state of the Air Force.

“Chief Bass spoke about the spectrum of resiliency and what we need to be doing as an Air Force to make sure we're taking care of our Airmen and how to accomplish it,” said Jones. “We have all of these initiatives to really take care of our Airmen, but HPO takes it a step further.”

The recent changes in the ideologies of the Air Force opens the door for Airmen and their leadership to create programs that didn’t exist in the past.

“People like me who've been in a while, remember the stigma that was associated with going to mental health for help,” said Jones. “The Air Force has done a really good job of transitioning to the mindset of seeking help is not a negative thing.”

Airmen are the driving force behind change in the Air Force, using their collective thoughts and ideas to make leadership at the highest levels aware of their concerns.

“There's a human element to our Airmen; we're not just machines, fixing other machines,” said A. Fallon Cole, 100th Force Support Squadron community readiness specialist. “If we can identify stressors and relieve any difficulties, we will have a happier Airmen and a better prepared force.”

The start of the HPO began with Airmen communicating their concerns and grew into a program which base leadership could fund and support.

“We put our hearts and souls into this room and designing it,” said Cole. “We were able to really make it something unique that I haven't seen on any other military base.”

The HPO room is an open resource which Airmen can benefit beyond team building exercises and building camaraderie.

“Sometimes when things are good, we think we don't have to improve and what we have done is enough,” said Jones. “We brainstormed how we can take it to the next step, to know we're not just good, we’re outstanding.”

The initiative Team Mildenhall leadership took to provide Airmen with base programs like HPO and others, are built in hopes of having an impact across the Air Force regarding workforce retention.

“Airmen with plans to separate have told me they have reconsidered due to the positive environment here at Team Mildenhall,” said Jones. “They feel like they’re part of the team and feel valued, and it makes them want to stay and carry it forward.”

Team Mildenhall has made a priority to ensure the wellness and success of its Airmen by providing a healthy and uplifting environment across base. Programs like the HPO were created due to Airmen’s needs, and more will come as Mildenhall innovates processes to better serve the Airmen of the future – because Airmen are the future.