by Senior Airman Brigitte N. Brantley
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
11/15/2012 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- The
U.S. military has a reputation for keeping pace with technology, using
it to effectively keep the combat edge while streamlining processes for
its workforce. The continual innovation in digital technologies makes it
one of the most challenging arenas in which to maintain superiority.
Although many of the innovations are large scale, staying up to speed requires small yet significant changes at every level.
The 8th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle management flight took a
technological step forward earlier this year when it transitioned from
paper technical orders (TOs) to digital versions on tablets.
With more than 600 TOs ranging from 600 to 1,800 pages, this translates
into each of the 19 tablets holding upward of 625,000 pages. And that's
before taking into account any local operating instructions or
"This is the biggest change in the VM career field I've seen in 24
years," said Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Keyser, 8th LRS flight chief. "As
far as I know, no other LRS flight has yet to transition over. We're
leading the charge and hope to influence other units in the same
Using this newer technology saves the Air Force time and money.
According to Senior Airman Andrew Radcliff, 8th LRS tech support
specialist, tablets cut down dramatically on time and paper resources.
"Previously, when we had to troubleshoot a vehicle, we looked up the TO
on a reference sheet," said Radcliff. "After locating it amongst
hundreds of manuals, we would then spend 30 to 45 minutes searching for a
part or procedure in that TO."
On the tablets, it's a matter of just minutes searching via the built-in search function.
In the past, when a TO needed to be updated, publishers would send the
changes by snail mail to every unit. If the shop didn't have a new TO on
hand, it could take up to 30 days to arrive in the mail and leave a
vehicle was out of commission for that time, according to Radcliff.
Now, new TOs are updated weekly, and every tablet is auto-synched at the end of each day.
"When I first was given responsibility over TOs, it was just weeks away
from a major unit inspection," said Radcliff, one of the main Airmen
responsible for making the transition happen. "We had about a decade
worth of TOs that hadn't been properly taken care of. The only way to
get inspection-ready in time was to go paperless.
"With encouragement and support from my leadership, we were able to make
it happen," he added. "Now, it's virtually impossible to get written up
for our TOs not being current."
Altogether, the 19 tablets and two laptops cost about $15,000. A paper
TO in the past cost $600 to $700 per volume, with some TOs having
The tablets are less hefty -- they weigh less than two pounds each,
while similar rugged laptops start at six pounds. Each is also encased
in a protective covering, which allows them to lie on an engine while a
mechanic is working on the vehicle. The protected tablets can endure
drops and exposure to the grease, dirt and corrosive chemicals that are
part of a mechanic's daily job.
Such tablets have already been incorporated in some other units, notably
by aircrew who also benefit from not having numerous paper TOs.
In 1945, Theodore von Kármán, famous aerodynamics contributor and
engineer, told Gen. Hap Arnold that "only a constant inquisitive
attitude toward science and a ceaseless and swift adaptation to new
developments can maintain the security of this nation."
Although going paperless is a relatively small change in the scope of
Air Force technology, it shows that units at all levels are ceaselessly
moving forward to adapt to new developments.