Training Preps Services Airmen for 'What We Do When it Matters Most'

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
This is what they do when it matters, says Senior Airman George Carter.

Carter and about two dozen other Michigan Airmen were sweating in the August sun, turning a large metal box into a field kitchen and setting up a nearby tent to be used as a dining area.

"This is our job," said Carter, a member of the 127th Force Support Squadron at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich. "This is how we do it when it matters the most."

The 127th FSS spent a week in August setting up tents, being issued new gas masks and exercising a variety of skills the squadron and its Airmen may be called upon to use in a deployed environment.

Master Sgt. Dawn Porter, a member of the Services Flight of the 127th FSS for the past 15 years, said the training being conducted at home station now is directly applicable to the types of duties that she and other FSS personnel have handled when sent overseas.

"I've had two deployments to the Middle East," she said. "In one, I supervised the operation of three dining facilities. At the other, I ran the fitness center. This training is identical to what you need to know when you go out into the field."

Services personnel are required to undergo this type of field training at least once every two years. Once every three years, the Airmen are required to attend a training session at Services Combat Training Session operated by the Air Force.

"There are specific skills, but ultimately a lot of it comes down to teamwork and leadership skills," Porter said.

As the two dozen Airmen were outside muscling a tent into place, another dozen or so senior NCOs and officers were inside the base dining facility, conducting a table-top exercise that involved planning work schedules, food preparation and all the logistics and facility support that the FSS team would need to support a deployed Wing.

"Food safety and security, having enough cots and places to sleep and then you start moving into some of the more quality of life issues, like having outlets for recreation and fitness that give people a way to unwind in their off-duty time," Porter said, listing some of the management concerns.

For Carter, a relative newcomer to the FSS, this type of training and service is exactly why he first joined the Air Force. He served on active duty for about 5 years, primarily as a crew chief on an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft. When an opportunity arose to transfer to the Air National Guard in his home state and move into the services career field, he jumped at it.

"I always wanted to be in food services, it is just something I enjoy," said Carter, who is a manager at a McDonald's restaurant in Auburn Hills, Mich., in his civilian job.

He said there are a lot of skills that cross over between his civilian job and his duties in the Air National Guard.

"Customer service is really the bottom line in both places. You want to provide people with good customer service - that's even the name of our flight, 'Services,'" he said.

Working as a manager in his civilian capacity is also helping him to learn some of the management and leadership skills needed for potential promotion in the Air National Guard, he said.

Services officer 2nd Lt. Allison Hartsfield said over the course of the week, personnel from different sections of FSS - which includes both the personnel office for the 127th Wing, as well as the services flight - will be required to touch on all aspects of the FSS career field.

"Our job is to ensure that people have a place in the tent to eat and to sleep, but then to get them out of the tent. So, it is cooking to basketball and everything in between," Hartsfield said.