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Career Development: Changing the Air Force 1 career at a time
Staff Sergeants Lizbeth Vaquero, Chrisanna Walton, Jacob Williams and Tech. Sgt. Echo Best (not shown) make up the 65th Force Support Squadron Career Development team. Lajes servicemembers in need of career development assistance may contact either of the four individuals at 535-1456. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Angelique N. Smythe)
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Career Development: Changing the Air Force 1 career at a time

Posted 11/16/2012   Updated 11/16/2012 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Angelique N. Smythe
65th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

11/16/2012 - LAJES FIELD, Azores -- When it comes to 100 percent accuracy on all Personnel Action Reports, Lajes' Military Personnel Section holds the number one spot Air Force-wide for the third quarter of 2012. The MPS also maintained first place in U.S. Air Forces Europe for the entire year as well.

PAR includes five categories: Personnel Reliability Program, Category 1, Reenlistment, Evaluations and Air Expeditionary Forces.

One group of Airmen that has contributed to the MPS' success is the Career Development team, who keeps charge of three of the five categories within PAR - PRP (ensures only the most reliable individual performs duties associated with nuclear weapons and their critical components), Reenlistments (ensures selection and retention of individuals who maintain standards) and Category 1 (ensures individuals arrive at their gaining locations mission ready.)

Lajes' 647 military members heavily rely on this four-man team to handle every aspect of their careers. This small team works very hard daily to tackle this big workload.

"We do promotions, DEROS, assignments, reenlistments, extensions, career status bonuses, command sponsorships, early return of dependents, initial enlistment bonuses, and NATO orders," said Tech. Sgt. Echo Best, 65th Force Support Squadron Career Development NCOIC.

With so many topics of responsibility, the teammembers consistently stay busy from the beginning to the end of each work day.

"The first thing we do each morning is check our emails that have processed in from (the Continental U.S.) while we were asleep (due to time differences)," said Staff Sgt. Jacob Williams, 65th FSS Career Development craftsman. "The (Air Force Personnel Center) bombards us with responses to questions that fall into all the categories we've mentioned. So, we spend our mornings following up."

This process itself can take just about any length of time. The team goes through great lengths to assist servicemembers, first sergeants and leadership in getting all the responses they need.

"This week alone we had a lot of hot issues for which we had to spend half the day on the phone with AFPC," said Best. "Now, we have to get that information back to the members' leadership. I was in a meeting for an hour and a half on one case, and these guys here had to do a lot of following up to get information back to the unit."

If it's during an assignment cycle, for which there are eight a year, the Career Development team goes through at least two days of receiving assignments from AFPC.

"There are four assignment cycles for overseas and four for CONUS annually," said Williams. "We'll come in that morning and there will be all of these assignments in our inbox, and we're loaded. We'll begin the initial eligibility process for those assignments, and then by the end of the day, we're sending requests back to AFPC or making phone calls. Then we're notifying the members as quickly as possible about what actions they need to accomplish."

The Career Development team also spends a lot of time referring to official Air Force policies for many types of special situations a servicemember may encounter.

"We dabble in at least a dozen (Air Force Instructions) all day long," said Williams. "We're kind of the 4-1-1 on personnel actions."

The Career Development team conducts a lot of research to help others find the exact guidance they may need, as well as educates individuals on how to understand and take control of their careers. They expertly break down information so that others may learn as well as help the next generation of Airmen.

"We also have a continuous working relationship with our (traffic management office) and finance office on a daily basis, for processing orders and dealing with all of those things that would affect a member's pay," said Best.

Despite the fact that most personnel actions seem as simple as a system-generated e-mail, nothing occurs automatically.

"Somebody behind the scenes is pushing a button to make that update happen, and that's us," said Best. "This includes promotions."

By 2 p.m. the Career Development team shuts their door to all customers, but the behind-the-scenes work continues.

"That's our key couple of hours to get on the computer or on the phone with AFPC and get the answers we need, such as for unique family situations," said Best.

Although Air Force regulations may be black and white, they only serve as a guide.

"When special conditions exist, a lot of times we have to call and ask AFPC exactly what they need from us to make certain things possible, and we make it happen," said Williams.

This Career Development team takes care of people from the beginning to the end of their tours here at Lajes.

"Sometimes it's before they even arrive and well after they're gone," said Williams. "For example, we may have to correct erroneous records found by AFPC on a member's reenlistment contract. We create a paper trail from when the record may have disappeared years ago then send everything back to AFPC to close out the loop."

To prevent themselves from becoming burnt out with such a demanding career, these four individuals, which include Staff Sgt. Lizbeth Vaquero and Staff Sgt. Chrisanna Walton, stay motivated with a sense of accomplishment, teamwork, food and laughter.

"We have a really (great) team with awesome NCOs," said Best. "They are all leaders. They make it enjoyable to come to work every day, and I'm glad I get to work with such amazing people."

"I enjoy seeing the right thing happen," said Williams. "When you know you've done your work and you've found the policy that someone needs in order to make things right for them, it's like a light switch. We were able to help someone where they got 'no' all around, and we got them a 'yes.'"

The team also enjoys breakfasts, off-site lunches and Boss & Buddy Wings Night together.

"When you feed your people, they are happy people," said Best. "We also have a time when we just vent, talk about situations, brainstorm, and work together. Sometimes we don't even have to talk about work. We enjoy talking about things that give everybody a laugh and lighten the mood of situations."

The Career Development team stands ready to help anyone in need of career development assistance until 2 p.m. each day and may be reached at 535-1456.

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