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Answering the call – DoD civilians deploy to Afghanistan

By By Summer Barkley, 401st Army Field Support Brigade Public Affairs

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BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan, June 9, 2015 – Deployment is a fact of life for those wearing the uniform. Deployment is not a fact of life for the majority of Department of Defense civilian workers. However, many civilians do deploy, citing a variety of reasons, and some deploy for long periods of time and serve multiple tours.

When Army Field Support Battalion Afghanistan was faced with the loss of long-term personnel and a lengthy hiring process, a call was put out for volunteers within Army Materiel Command to deploy for at least six months. Several quality assurance specialists from Defense Contract Management Agency also volunteered.

The most common reasons civilians cited for deploying centered on wanting to give back and feeling a sense of duty. Some deployed because they said they wanted the experience, and some repeat deployers said they enjoy working directly with the troops.

“I can’t think of anything better than serving those who protect me, my family and the entire United States of America,” said Annie Bob, who is deployed here from her job at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where she is an information technology specialist.

“I felt it a duty and honor to be able to volunteer and support,” said Tonia Kennedy, serving here as the battalion’s deputy support operations officer. Kennedy deployed previously for 21 days, but the Army Sustainment Command equipment division chief is now back for six months.

Two of the new team members on their first deployments are Tiffany Currie, a logistics management specialist with nearly six years of civilian service, and Barry Tabron, a lead logistics management specialist with more than 30 years of civilian service. Both are from Army, Tank and Automotive Command, or TACOM.

Currie and Tabron said they deployed for similar reasons, with Currie saying she "wanted to see what the job was like on the other side of the spectrum" and Tabron saying he wanted the experience of supporting the mission at Bagram.

As primary hand receipt holders, Currie and Tabron, are learning new skill sets at an "aggressive pace," according to Tabron.

Currie said it has been most gratifying to see firsthand how the logistics, transportation and supply processes work.

“I was behind the scenes … and wanted to see for myself what was happening on the ground,” said Harold Wilson, deployed from TACOM where he is a systems analyst for the Logistics Modernization Program.

While many of the group have numerous deployments under their belts, they said the reasons they volunteered for another deployment included liking the work in a contingency environment, job satisfaction in directly supporting troops and a sense of being where they felt they make the biggest difference.

Deployers said they found unexpected things once they were on the ground and getting acclimated. They cited the fast pace and urgency of the mission, the scope of the battalion mission, the fact that the mission is constantly evolving and the new sights and sounds.

“Any (civilian) that deploys gets the opportunity to experience what the Army is all about and gain vast knowledge and skills that will benefit their command and organizations back home,” said Gilberto Ponce, a primary hand receipt holder who deployed from Army Sustainment Command where he is a logistics management specialist.

“Do it, but be prepared to learn about the job and yourself,” Tabron said.

John McVey is a quality assurance specialist who deployed from the Defense Contract Management Agency at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala.

He said the "experience gained in a downrange environment is invaluable to us both professionally and in appreciating all the freedoms … back home."

David Lee, a quality assurance specialist deployed from DCMA, said he would recommend deployment because you can work with the people actually using the equipment.

Finally, Robert Metcalf, a DCMA deployer from East Hartford, Ct., recommends deployment for the life experience and satisfaction in knowing that the warfighters are provided the proper equipment so they can do their job.

Having civilians supporting the mission in the absence of long-term personnel is critical, said Sgt. Maj. Tyrone P. Legier, Army Field Support Battalion Afghanistan senior enlisted adviser. “We truly appreciate our teammates as they volunteer for this assignment. The knowledge, experience and commitment they bring to the team is invaluable.”