Use chain of command for complaints, issues Published Aug. 22, 2008 By Staff Sgt. Grant Saylor 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- A recent string of Reservists' complaints have completely bypassed the chain of command and gone directly to the Congressional level, prompting 446th Airlift Wing officials to encourage Reservists to work through supervisors and commanders to solve most conflicts. By voicing their concerns at a lower level and working up through the chain of command, Reservists will maximize their chances of seeing a positive solution to their conflict or concern. It's important to note that a Reservist is never restricted from filing a Congressional complaint or concern, and can voice an opinion at any juncture in the complaint resolution process. "Given that, it's usually best to talk to your supervisor or commander first," said Lt. Col. Barbara Henson, 446th Airlift Wing inspector general. Colonel Henson said a complaint or concern that bypasses the chain of command and instead goes straight to Congressional levels limits a member's recourse. "With a Congressional, your complaint will be heard only once and you'll get one answer, end of story," said Colonel Henson. "That's because a Congressional hearing does not require an independent investigation in its response, whereas a complaint at the lower level would allow more opportunities for investigation and dispute resolution." Other wing experts concur. "It creates a challenge for the individual because there's nowhere else to go," said Capt. Barbara McMullen, 446th AW chief of military equal opportunity. "If you don't get the desired outcome at the Congressional level, you lose the process of appeal." If a complaint cannot be resolved through direct communication with a supervisor or commander, or if the supervisor or commander is the target of the complaint, several resources are readily available to Reservists at McChord, including Captain McMullen's MEO office and Colonel Henson's IG office. If a group or squadron commander is the target of an allegation and an Air Force standard applies, the IG office will open an investigation. "If a standard doesn't apply, it's my responsibility to facilitate open communication and get the commanders and members together to work things out," said Colonel Henson. Likewise, the MEO office can be an excellent resource for helping Reserve Airmen confront issues they don't feel comfortable taking to a supervisor or commander. "We don't say, 'only talk to us if it concerns sexual harassment,'" said Captain McMullen. "We want members to feel like they can talk to us about anything." Colonel Henson is quick to point out that Reservists are protected from reprisal for filing a complaint under the Whistleblower Protection Act. Using the chain of command for complaint resolution is therefore the best way to take advantage of the many resources available to Reserve Airmen.