Wing manpower analyst drives efficiency and readiness

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kristen Pittman
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

With evolving technologies, career-field transformations, fluctuating demand for personnel and a myriad of other contributing factors, it’s up to manpower analysts to study procedures and data and provide guidance to leaders on the needs of the Air Force.

“I ultimately maintain all of the manpower positions, the spaces, for the wing,” said Nicole Herrera, manpower analyst for the Air Force Reserve’s 403rd Wing. “My role is to give data-driven, risk-assessed workforce recommendations to the leaders across the wing.”

Herrera brings more than 20 years of Air Force officer and civilian experience in the manpower realm to the wing, her most recent experience being at the Air Force Manpower Analysis Agency at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, which serves as the hub of the service’s manpower efforts.

The key to success in providing the best insight into how to most efficiently utilize a unit’s manpower resources is through management engineering, Herrera said, which consists of asking questions like ‘How many times do you do this process?’ and ‘What are some inherent challenges with the process?’ to develop the standards to determine what the minimum requirement is to do that job.

“This role was made for me because I am nosey by nature,” she said. “I want to know how everyone’s job works. I want to go visit maintenance and watch them change a tire on an aircraft and see how long it takes, how many people it takes. I can’t effectively do my job if I don’t know what it takes for the Airmen to do theirs. The better I understand how the Airmen fit into the bigger mission the better I can advocate for what they need.”

The manpower analyst position is relatively new to the Air Force Reserve, Herrera said. Around 5 years ago AFRC began implementing the positions, first at reserve installations, then in tenant units like the 403rd Wing.

“I was the first person hired into this position here, but my husband is active duty and he received orders to San Antonio, so unfortunately after three months I had to leave, and I went to the Air Force Manpower Analysis Agency there,” she said. “They do all the manpower standards across the spectrum; we even engaged with AFRC when the function under study impacted a wartime capability encompassing Total Force operations. The biggest challenge has been transitioning from managing active-duty positions to understanding the complexities of reserve positions.”

Just like an Airman learning their job or checking off a training requirement in order to be deemed ready, there is a readiness component to her position as it’s imperative for her to be up to date on what positions are necessary in order to meet readiness requirements.

The current big project she has on her plate deals with helping the 403rd Wing better posture themselves in the new Air Force Force Generation model. The AFFORGEN model is a cycle that covers four 6-month phases over a 24-month period that ensures readiness to deploy and support joint force needs. She’s currently working to develop a position that will enable the Wing to best meet the requirements of the AFFORGEN model.

While manpower stands to assess needs and advise commanders on recommended actions, Herrera said there is an unfortunate stigma attached to her position where members are under the impression that if manpower is around, it means they are losing positions.

“We operate under a fiscally restrained environment,” she said. “Resources are scarce, especially when it comes to manpower, so my job is to help understand that function’s mission and figure out what’s the best way we can allocate our resources to meet the intent without burning our folks out. It’s my job to advocate for the unit’s needs but also to help stretch the dollar, if you will, when it comes to manpower resources.”