108th Wing Airmen train in Germany

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Andrea A. S. Williamson
  • 108th Wing

With the central purpose to not only mold Airmen, but to boost unit morale the 108th Force Support Squadron, New Jersey Air National Guard, conducted their first movement for training at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, March 10-22.

“To be able to carry something like this out, was huge.” said Senior Master Sgt. Tulip A. Appleton, 108th FSS superintendent.

It all started with a question.

About a year ago Capt. Cynthia Cano-Hewitt, commander, 108th Force Support Squadron said she heard that the 108th Civil Engineer Squadron went on a deployment for training and wondered if the 108 FSS had something similar to provide their guardsmen. So, she began digging.

After initially accessing the National Guard Bureau A1 Sharepoint website, which focuses on FSS functions, she found a document titled MFT [movement for training] buried in one of the folders, said Cano-Hewitt. She then reached out to the person at the National Guard Bureau who loaded the document into the database.

“Basically, what the guard bureau does is reach out to their active duty counterparts and say who needs help and in what time frame?” said Cano-Hewitt. “So they compile that information and put it into a spreadsheet, push it out in August, and give us about three weeks to submit. We try to make those contacts and see if we can coordinate that movement for training in that specified time, in that specified location.”

Cano-Hewitt said she then had to mark her calendar to be vigilant for when the yearly opportunity arose. In the meantime, she remained eager and reached out to other Guard bases who had participated in MFTs to find out what steps they took to complete it. With ample details, she, along with Appleton, set a plan in place to prepare for the year ahead.

Now March of 2019, their diligence paid off.

In order for Cano-Hewitt to execute the final steps for this MFT, she contacted the 108th Operations Planning Office to find out if the aircrew could take the 28 Airmen from both FSS and the 108th Communications Flight to Spangdahlem Air Base while on their way.

“They said yes,” said Cano-Hewitt. She called Spangdahlem to see if they would be willing to host the 108th Wing during that same time, despite being outside of the listed training dates. As a result, the FSS team maximized its resources.

In personnel, Airmen learn a lot about Installation Personnel Readiness, said Senior Airman Kiyara U. Jackson, a personnelist with the 108th FSS. Aside from Airman Leadership School, this was Jackson’s first TDY [temporary duty]. Nearing five years in the field, Jackson said that this training was not only a learning experience, but a refresher of the knowledge and standards she applies monthly, as a traditional guardsman.

“They learned how to update reporting instructions for members deploying, as a part of Air Expeditionary Force”, said Appleton. “They also learned how to process CED [Contingency, Exercise and Deployment] orders and NATO orders if the country requires it, and PRESCO—Personnel in Support of Contingency Operations, which accounts for all deployed forces. They were trained on career development: retirement, separations, and expired term of service and customer support: Line of Duty determinations, IDs, and passports.”

Due to the high-tempo atmosphere of a monthly scheduled weekend drill, Airmen have noted that it is often tough to complete mission related tasks and personal fitness requirements (i.e. physical, medical, and training), let alone have time to bond as a team.

Despite the critical fighter mission at Spangdahlem, which supports satellite bases in various locations, this TDY to Germany gave Jackson time to connect with her fellow Airmen on and off duty hours.

While this area is often addressed through recreation offered by Airmen and Family Readiness or wing initiated team building activities, Cano-Hewitt said that trainings such as this combat the challenge of Airmen developing a lack of interest in what they do and with whom they work with.

Particularly in services and personnel, Airmen can become less productive and ultimately less mission effective if they feel as though the function they provide is monotonous, said Cano-Hewitt. When Airmen are away from their usual environment, they are able to focus on their Air Force Security Code, fly on the wing’s aircraft, and actively witness the mission.

“I want people to be in FSS because they want to be in FSS,” said Cano-Hewitt.

Of the 108th FSS members chosen for the unit’s first movement for training, seven were from services and five were personnel.

“We opened it up to all FSS members and created a primary list and alternate list,” said Cano-Hewitt. “Whoever of course was fit—physically, financially, and medically, were able to participate.”

Appleton who has been with the 108th FSS for seven years and accompanied the members on this TDY, has watched several Airmen grow in their careers.

Her duties while at Spangdahlem, included monitoring the training, handling logistics and staying in constant communication with peer leadership back in New Jersey, said Appleton.

“My main goal is to make sure the Airmen are taken care of,” said Appleton, “that they have what they need to accomplish their AFSC.”

Though this time the 108th FSS visited an active duty squadron with a different mission, Cano-Hewitt said her unit closely resembles the Spangdahlem FSS unit but on a smaller scale. “Our services out-number personnelists,” she said. Yet, the wing also has an honor guard and a mortuary function, in addition to sustainment services, such as food and lodging.

With deployments being in support of a contingency, or rather operation, a TDY is job specific, said Appleton. Because of this, this training allowed members to expand their knowledge of personnel and services. “It’s coming along,” said Appleton, during the course of the training. “They seem engaged and are asking questions.”

“The military has shown me I can do more than I thought I could,” said Jackson. “It has given me job opportunities… like being on orders and working full-time as a Human Resources specialist/ Information Systems during the week.”

Moving forward, Appleton said she expects Airmen to be more well-versed and knowledgeable. “And to understand the Airman concept of working together,” said Appleton. “Taking care of one another.”

Similarly, Cano-Hewitt said she wants to one day leave FSS with more capable Airmen, resulting in improvement wing wide. “FSS spans every Airman’s career,” said Cano-Hewitt. “We are there with them from the beginning, middle, and end.”

Even though she has gotten adjusted to her position, Cano-Hewitt said she still feels that initial passion for her team that she began with.  “I love my team and I want them to know that,” said Cano-Hewitt. “We do so much and every function in FSS touches a lot of people throughout the wing.”

Soon, FSS plans to do another movement for training so that its remaining members can gain the same experience, said the two FSS leaders.

As for Jackson, she said she plans to reenlist when the time comes, but hopes in the near future to go active-duty. In the meantime, Jackson too believes everyone in FSS could benefit from a movement for training, particularly overseas.

The 108th Wing leadership continues to make Airman readiness a top priority and encourages Airmen to improve themselves through new opportunities. Efforts such as those made by Cano-Hewitt and Appleton are proving to directly benefit young Airmen.

“I just hope others can experience it,” said Jackson. “We can learn a lot from active duty with the way they do things. I just appreciate Capt. Cano-Hewitt and Sergeant Appleton for getting us together to do something like this.”