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To Travel or Not to Travel: New tool helps Reservists make an informed decision

Staff Sgt. Trevor Talbert, an aerospace medical technician, grabs his luggage after arriving in Shreveport, Louisiana, in May. RAPTR is a new tool to help Reservists decide whether it is safe to travel during the pandemic. (Master Sgt. Ted Daigle)

Staff Sgt. Trevor Talbert, an aerospace medical technician, grabs his luggage after arriving in Shreveport, Louisiana, in May. RAPTR is a new tool to help Reservists decide whether it is safe to travel during the pandemic. (Master Sgt. Ted Daigle)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

Members of the Air Force Reserve team now have an easy-to-use tool to help them decide whether or not it is safe to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The risk of COVID-19 varies across the United States, and commanders and supervisors are responsible for assessing that risk as they review TDY and leave requests,” said Mark Mercier, chief of HQ AFRC A9 Directorate’s Analyses Division. “Although many detailed COVID-19 tools exist, they either require too much time to use and interpret or they are not tailored to the unique needs of Reservists.”

That’s why A9 led a collaborative multi-directorate effort with Lt. Col. Jessica Dees, AFRC’s command public health officer, and Lt. Col. Regina Reyes, HQ AFRC’s squadron section commander, to develop the Risk Assessment Plan for Traveling Reservists, RAPTR.

RAPTR was designed to provide quick and simple travel risk decision support for commanders and supervisors. It is currently a Microsoft Excel tool on AFRC’s Enterprise Information Mangement Sharepoint, accessible both on and off the AF network with a common access card and an AFNET account, making it relatively easy for Reservists to access in order to analyze their travel decisions.

“RAPTR uses the Reservist’s travel itinerary and answers to a simple checklist to provide a risk assessment,” Mercier said.

RAPTR’s primary source of COVID-19 data is the same source used by the federal government and most recognized COVID-19 models, the COVID-19 Data Repository by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Additional data sources include Esri’s geographic information system mapping data for city, county and state, as well as the Harvard Global Health Institute’s COVID Risk Levels for indicating green, yellow, orange and red “hot spot” locations.

“RAPTR basically presents the data in a more concise way without overwhelming the user with data, graphs and charts, then adds in a CCQ-inspired, SG-validated checklist,” Mercier said.

"Since OSD exempted DoD Service members from leave travel restrictions on June 29, the HQ AFRC Commander’s Support Staff has processed nearly 300 leave requests out of the local area.," Reyes said. "The RAPTR tool has given us the ability to quickly assess risk and potential restriction of movement requirements, allowing our service members to safely take some much-needed leave during these challenging times.”

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, AFRC’s A9 Directorate has been researching methods and tools to help the command leadership make decisions about the safety of Reservists. 

“This is what A9 does: Operational research analysts utilizing data and models to develop tools which help the command meet its operational requirements”, said Col. Brian Mueller, AFRC's director of Analyses, Lessons Learned and Continuous Process Improvement.

“Part of our focus was on determining the risk for Reservists to travel,” Mercier said. “Other available tools have a lot of great data and graphics, but have some challenges. We leveraged these tools for insight, tried to find ways to visualize their data for the unique needs of Reservists, but the tools did not entirely align with how Reservists perform the mission.

"First, we wanted to simplify the complex data to enable quick and informed decisions. Second, we wanted to include data for all cities/counties across the country to address the fact that Reservists generally do not live close to a base. Later, Air Education and Training Command put out its own tool (the Travel Risk Assessment Tool). We used this tool as a starting point for our Reservist-focused tool, adding in the JHU authoritative data, and the checklist questions designed for the needs of AFRC.”

RAPTR became operational on August 3rd. Mercier said the feedback so far has been very positive.

“The informal feedback from current users is that RAPTR is reducing risk assessment time by about 33%,” he said. “The tool works well, but we continue to see how we can make it better. Look for changes and improvements as guidance changes.”

RAPTR can be found at https://afrc.eim.us.af.mil/sites/a9/A9A/RAPTR.

There is a RAPTR user’s manual on the Sharepoint site, but anyone needing assistance can contact Travis Nelson at Travis.Nelson.31@us.af.mil or Jane Stoner at Jane.Stoner@us.af.mil. #ReserveReady #ReserveReform