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Airman leads 509th AMXS innovation

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Juan Cruz, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron equipment technician, poses for a photo at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Oct. 3, 2020. Cruz led several innovation projects to stream line operations at the 509th AMXS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Salazar)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Juan Cruz, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron equipment technician, poses for a photo at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Oct. 3, 2020. Cruz led several innovation projects to stream line operations at the 509th AMXS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Salazar)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --

As Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Air Force Chief of Staff stated in his Accelerate Change or Lose message, “Our Airmen must be multi-capable and adaptable team builders, as well as innovative and courageous problem solvers, and demonstrate value in the diversity of thought, ingenuity, and initiative.”

At the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, one Airman has already started accelerating change.

Growing up in Puerto Rico, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Juan Cruz, 509th AMXS equipment technician, has always been fascinated with any piece of new machinery or technology. As a child, he was always taking his Atari and Sega Genesis apart to make repairs.

“I was the typical child making his parents angry from constantly disassembling household items,” said Cruz.

When his high school received their first batch of new computers, he trained all the school staff on how to use them and set up the network systems.

“I volunteered at the computer club and after teaching myself how the Mac computers worked, they asked for my help,” added Cruz.

His passion and fascination for technology drove him to obtain a degree in computer repair and networking.

After completing his degree, Cruz joined the Air Force as a crew chief working with the B-1 Lancer at Dyess Air Force Base and also served as an instructor at Sheppard AFB, prior to arriving here at Whiteman.

“At Dyess I was able to help coordinate and install the crew chief section computers whenever we had a tech refresh, so it wouldn’t affect maintenance documentation or leadership duties,” said Cruz. “At Sheppard I repurposed over 75 memory cards from computers that were on their way to be destroyed and with them we made the instructor computers faster and more efficient to teach.”

Since arriving at Whiteman, Cruz has spent a majority of his time working multiple sections of the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron support area, with a majority of his time being in the Consolidated Tool Kit section.

With his position in CTK, he embraced the opportunity for change. By overseeing equipment purchases and working with various agencies, such as the 509th Wing Innovation Office, he was able to identify technology equipment needed to streamline processes within the CTK section.

“With the Innovation Office’s guidance we streamlined the check-out and check-in of equipment and tools by moving certain shop specific items to a closer area,” added Cruz. “This helped shorten the time frame from approximately 45 minutes to about seven minutes.”

The Innovation Office also assisted Cruz in purchasing wireless barcode readers that allowed the CTK section to streamline equipment tracking and issuing.

Cruz’s most significant accomplishment to Whiteman is the installation of the new security camera system, which provides 24/7 coverage of $11 million in CTK equipment to mitigate incidents of lost or misplaced items. 

The system also allows anyone from the CTK section’s noncommissioned officers to the 509th Maintenance Group commander to review and monitor the secured area.

Cruz also created a network server that allowed him to install new tool accountability computer software across all other CTKs within the Maintenance Group.

The asset management software and the server allows the section to maintain and track thousands of tools from the largest to the smallest, keeping the section in line with all Air Force requirements. The system streamlines deployments by allowing operators to transfer all deployed tool information to a standalone laptop, keeping a separate database of those items.

Cruz’s innovative efforts at the 509th AMXS have decreased the unit’s dependency on outside agencies to perform troubleshooting, repairs, creation, and installation of frequent high priority taskers across the squadron.

“Staff Sgt. Cruz is a highly valuable asset in the support section and we are fortunate that he has been able to train the Airmen on the usage of the new equipment,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Thomas Dunlap, 509th AMXS support section chief.

With the support of his leadership, Cruz’s innovation at the 509th AMXS has met the Air Force Chief of Staff’s goal of encouraging Airmen who are problem solvers that demonstrate value in the diversity of thought, ingenuity, and initiative.