War on Terrorism

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Specialized Airmen have two jobs but they're not moonlighting

by Master Sgt. Leisa Grant
Air Force Central Command Public Affairs

4/30/2013 - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Khaki or denim pants, a plaid button-up shirt, rolled-up sleeves and dark brown work boots are not what one would expect to see an Airman wearing during the duty day.

However, this is common for Air National Guard members of the Engineering Installation team. If they are not deployed or performing military duties at their various home stations' states, most work civilian jobs, attending college or both.

A lot of their professions are similar to their military occupations.

Master Sgt. William Taylor, 160thTheater Signal Support Brigade cable team chief, works as an installation and repair technician for a communications company in Sugarland, Texas, when he is out of uniform.

Some of his duties include installing phones and DSL service, and troubleshooting and repairing fiber optic cable. These activities have him climbing telephone poles one minute and down into manholes the next.

"My civilian job is in line with my job in the Texas Air National Guard," he said. "The knowledge I have gained at my civilian job has enabled me to give back in the form of training and mentoring to my fellow team members at my unit."

Taylor is one of many Airmen on the team with a mutually beneficial dual career status.

Tech. Sgt. Thomas Jackson, 160 TSSB cable and antenna systems craftsman, works with fiber systems and sub-rate data systems for a large U.S. company back in his home state of Oklahoma.

Working in similar industries for his civilian and military careers keeps him up to date and proficient in his skills, he said.

A few team members have civilian jobs like nothing what they are doing here, but still they are able to use experiences from one to benefit the other.

Senior Airman Tarah White, 160 TSSB airfield systems journeyman, is a certified nurse aide in her civilian life, trading cables and cords for suction tubes and gauze.

"My military job has made me even more organized and efficient," she said, adding that her military job pushes her to better herself and continue growing as a person.

Skills gained -- whether directly related to job or not -- seem to be a common factor for the EI Airmen.

"My military training has helped improve my people skills," said Tech. Sgt. Dwyn Dolgner, also a Texas ANG member who works with communications, cable and antenna systems here. Prior to deploying, he worked for a radio advertising agency, purchasing radio air time and placing live endorsements on the air -- a job that does not require a safety helmet, gloves and goggles or working in dusty, hot conditions.

Aside from honing his people skills, his hobbies also have some correlation to his communication duties.

Dolgner considers himself a "big tech guy," who often has to have the latest and greatest gadgets coming out. He enjoys working in a field, in his military job, where he learns the technical aspects of these gadgets and how they work.

When these Airmen return to their homes in the United States, they will slip right back into their khakis and colorful shirts, setting aside the Airman Battle Uniform until drill weekend or whenever else their duties call for them.

While their attire and skill sets may change, they do share a common factor with their fellow active-duty service members, who will remain in uniform -- the determination and ability to do a job, and do it well.

"The EI mission is about providing a quick reaction force that is highly skilled in delivering a securable, enduring, redundant and scalable communications infrastructure to the war fighter in any environment," said Col. Norman Poklar, Afghanistan EI commander.

The training and skills his Airmen acquire through technical schools, courses and on-the-job training are based on the same high standards that the civilian industries use, he said. Airmen can take the skills they learn through their ANG experiences and further refine them working for a number of industry partners.

"The employers value this and realize that the partnership with the ANG EI community gives them better skills than their civilian counterparts," Poklar said. "It's a mutually beneficial relationship."

Poklar and his team are integral in the completion of more than 100 projects in just six months, saving the Department of Defense millions of dollars, he said.

A large part of their work has been focused on the drawdown of remote forward operating bases and the movement of mission assets to enduring facilities, like the ones here. The EI team has been busy upgrading the infrastructure in buildings previously not suited to handle the influx of new units arriving at Bagram Airfield.

"All of our projects have been completed on time and under budget," Poklar said. "Our folks will leave here soon with a sense of pride and mission accomplishment for what they have done. We have clearly left Afghanistan better than we found it."

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