ARPC - A real national treasure

  • Published
  • By Steve Hannan
  • Director, Directorate of Communications and Information
Just a few weeks ago the Air Reserve Personnel Center held yet another change of command. We said goodbye to one commander and welcomed the new commander. It's the 17th time I've seen a change of command at ARPC. 

As I prepared the invocation for this ceremony, I started thinking of all the things ARPC has accomplished. 

Back in May 1954, the Air Force started a new organization - the Air Reserve Records Center. The Korean War showed that our nation needed to proactively manage the records of members of the Air Reserve Component to enable easy, accurate mobilization. 

What is an ARC? It's all members of the Air National Guard, Reservists and retirees. In other words, just about anyone with some sort of Air Force affiliation who isn't currently on active duty. 

The Air Force put this new records repository at 3800 York St., Denver. In those days, Denver was outside the range of our enemies' missiles and far enough from the borders to be safe from attack and sabotage. It was a natural home for not only our ARPC, but the Air Force Accounting and Finance Center (now the Defense Finance and Accounting Service) and a very large federal center on the west side of Denver. 

Here we had the first mainframe computer and the first toll-free number west of the Mississippi. During this time, we planned for mobilization. To improve our ability to get the right people to the best possible mobilization location, ARPC employees developed a grid to divide the nation into zones to improve our placement of mobilized members. We called this Grid-ZIP, and it was one of the forerunners of the postal service's ZIP codes. 

During the '60s and '70s we morphed into a full-blown personnel center expanding our role from simple records retention into personnel support and administration. Storage of paper became a little too cumbersome, so we developed a micrographic records system and Advanced Personnel Data Systems with the Air Force Personnel Center in San Antonio, Texas. 

We had records and managed the personnel needs of people like actor and Brig. Gen. Jimmy Stewart, Maj. Gen. Joseph McNeil (former mobilization assistant to AFRC and member of the Greensboro Four), Maj. Gen. Ron Sega (mobilization assistant, astronaut, and undersecretary of the Air Force) and President (then captain) George W. Bush. 

In 1976, we moved from York Street to our current location here on the former Lowry AFB. By then we had become a major force in Air Force and Department of Defense personnel. We had pioneered the concept of a consolidated, centralized personnel office remotely supporting ARC members that has become the foundation for everything being done in Personnel Services Delivery Transformation today. 

In the '80s we developed innovative ways of mobilizing and started performing Individual Ready Reserve screenings. Some of these systems and processes were so good that both the Army and Navy took them for their own. We saw that the Army knew how to move massive amounts of people and borrowed the "push/pull" concept from them - of course, we made it much better. 

During Desert Storm, we found that the existing batch-updated, multi-tiered, file-based personnel system just didn't meet the needs for us or mobilized ARC members. ARPC proposed a single-file integrated system to ease mobilization support. Finally, in 2001 that system was turned on and renamed the Military Personnel Data System. It wasn't everything we wanted (what system ever is?), but it did improve the data flow to combatant commanders and mobilized ARC members. 

September 2001 was the beginning of the Global War on Terrorism. Although MilPDS did not have any functioning recall or mobilization routines, brilliant people at ARPC were able to build small computer applications and force MilPDS changes that allowed us to get ARC members ready and to provide 21st century personnel services to all ARC members. 

Today, we continue to do the same things we did in the '50s, albeit with different tools. 

We use ARMS instead of paper records, online personnel services delivery instead of a consolidated reserve personnel office, promotion boards using state-of-the-art systems instead of paper ballots, and we perform force development instead of leaving it up to a member's own ingenuity. 

As Brig. Gen. Eric Crabtree, ARPC commander, said during the change of command, ARPC is the "foundation" for all of the ARC personnel activities. 

ARPC has been leading the way for more than 50 years in innovation of processes and in using technology to the fullest. 

With the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System and a legion of other opportunities for transformation on the horizon, I'm certain that there will be many more changes of command here at ARPC. I'm equally certain that we'll continue to provide unequaled service to the ARC and our Air Force. We are assigned to a true national treasure. Be proud!