Oregon Airman Vanguards Logistics System
By Staff Sgt. Brandon Boyd, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 06, 2015
PORTLAND AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ore. -- If you imagine earnestness, excitement and a quick-to-speak personality, Tech. Sgt. Andrew Saunders would be a model prototype. An avid gamer, PC-based games, to be exact, Saunders flies on the edge of social norms and strives to arrange life to fit his definitions.
What happens when an old computer system is slowing you down? If you're someone with the personal momentum of Tech Sgt. Andrew Saunders, Vehicle Management and Analysis specialist for the 142nd Fighter Wing, you try and figure out how to replace the system. Not just in his squadron, not just in his wing, not even just across the Air Force, but throughout the entire Department of Defense.
On an old machine in the corner of a dusty office at the Portland Air National Guard Base, Oregon, sits OLVIMS. Young airmen feed it floppy disks and get printed reports out the other end.
It is a bit of an understatement to call the On-Line Vehicle Interactive Management System (OLVIMS) a legacy system. For the average tech-savvy millennial, life is stuffed with smart phone alerts, web-based applications and instant gratification. For mechanics across the U.S. military, however, work life is a little more involved. Let's put it this way; sending floppy disks via post to fellow mechanics to make the system run is not an uncommon occurrence.
"OLVIMS is very limited, it's a legacy system," said Tech. Sgt. Nick Petchell, a vehicle maintenance mechanic for the 142nd Fighter Wing. "When I went to tech school 11 years ago, we were told 'we're phasing it out.'"
Petchell said his colleague went to tech school 20 years ago and were told: 'we're phasing it out.'
Almost 30 years after the creation of OLVIMS, while on active duty, Saunders said he struck up a conversation with Deric Sims, the fleet manager for the Department of Defense. According to Saunders, Sims revealed that another very capable system called the Defense Property Accountability System (DPAS) had been created a few years prior to handle vehicle maintenance operations but it was not well-known, nor well-used in the vehicle maintenance community.
And Saunders said the timing for the new system was right as OLVIMS was set to be decommissioned in April, 2016 due to new military reporting requirements.
"The number one obstacle for adoption of the new system is culture change, the old one has been in use longer than most airmen have been alive," said Saunders.
Despite this obstacle, Saunders said he began to teach himself to use the new system. After serving as a beta-tester for video games in his spare time, he was well-versed in writing in-depth reports, along with screenshots, to help alert software developers to annoying bugs and useful feature requests.
And he began to send the same kinds of reports to the software developers who work on DPAS. Within a short amount of time, Saunders built extensive knowledge and over 50 pages of documentation about the system.
"I tested the software at Joint Base Andrews, extended testing at multiple bases and started getting sent on TDYs to go teach the new system across the Air Force," said Saunders.
A web-based application, DPAS leapfrogs many of the obstacles inherent in the old system. Aside from obvious usability improvements for maintainers, higher headquarters can use the new system to instantly see the maintenance status of the entire fleet to analyze trends and adjust resources.
According to a presentation written by Sims, many additional features are scheduled to be added to DPAS to help vehicle maintainers and managers prioritize cost and optimize procurement for a more efficient system.
Now as a member of the Oregon Air National Guard, Saunders is putting his skills to use by continuing to train others and also facilitating a pilot project for the 142nd Fighter Wing on the new DPAS system, the first of its kind.
"We've received the training for the new system, but we're going to be much more involved and hands on over the next few weeks," said Petchell.
Asked about his upcoming plans, Saunders said he plans on pursuing a Bachelor's degree in logistics management from Portland State University in Portland, Ore.
"I'm just that weird guy who really loves logistics," he said.