Flying From Filing Cabinets to the Cloud

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Keira Rossman
  • 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

In today's digital age, the amount of information organizations generate and store has increased exponentially. This is no exception for Laughlin Air Force Base, which deals with thousands of records documenting its operations, policies, and procedures. This records management may sound tedious, but it is essential to maintaining a well-organized and efficient organization. The United States Air Force has recognized this and has taken it to the next level by implementing an innovative electronic records management program. 

"The records management program can be a very tedious duty that, if not maintained correctly, can cause a lot of headaches and extra work for any unit," said Staff Sgt. Gustavo Cantu, 47th Communications Squadron knowledge management technician. "Transitioning the record staging area from a physical location to an electronic location is definitely a step towards a more efficient Communications Squadron, and efficient communications means more effective squadrons around each group." 

The need for a more efficient records management program arose from the need for additional funding for shipping, storing, and disposing of large quantities of records and staging facilities. With an electronic staging area, records are now kept, protected, categorized, and managed with ease. 

“Records serve a vital role in documenting the Air Force mission,” said Cantu. “Ensuring important information is available to support effective decision making, thus enhancing readiness and lethality and protecting the legal rights of the Air Force and the public.” 

The goals of the records management program are to provide evidence and accountability of the Air Force's function, policy, and procedures to the public, Congress, and the Department of Defense. 

However, implementing this electronic records management program was not without its challenges. In fact, the four-person records management team faced several difficulties in their efforts to improve their program. 

“One of the main challenges was awaiting guidance from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) on permanent record scanning, as well as legal guidance on digitizing frozen records,” said Cantu.  

Additionally, the team had to deal with hardcopy requirements from various organizations, such as the Government Purchase Card (GPC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), Human Resources (HR), and drug tests. Additionally, they faced challenges in digitizing medical/mental health records, flight charts, microfiche, and non-standard-paper media. Despite these obstacles, the team persevered and found a solution through communication and collaboration between multiple organizations and the tools at their disposal. 

The Air Force records management program has received positive feedback since the physical staging area was decommissioned. The transition from a physical location to an electronic site means additional work that used to be mandatory is now eliminated. The staging area has moved from "having to order boxes, print labels, and make an appointment to transfer a couple of pounds worth of paper records" to "simply drag and drop record files into our electronic staging area." 

"Thanks to the transition, our knowledge management office is now able to focus more time and manpower on other programs," said Cantu. "The 47th Communications Squadron can now allocate funds that used to go into the staging area into other Squadron necessities."  

The Records Management Program continues to be an essential part of Laughlin's mission. By preserving and managing records, the program ensures that important information is available to support effective decision-making, enhances readiness and lethality, and protects the legal rights of the Air Force and the public. Through the hard work and dedication of the records management team, Laughlin can operate more efficiently and effectively thanks to the hard work and dedication of the 47th Communications Squadron knowledge management team. 

“Working alongside some of the finest Airmen at Laughlin has shown me that when we strive for excellence, we can achieve it” said Alice Harlan, 47th Communications Squadron base records manager. “I am proud to be part of such an exceptional team.”