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PERSCO Airmen count 'boots on the ground'

by Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
416th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs

3/7/2005 - KARSHI-KHANABAD AIR BASE, Uzbekistan (AFPN) -- In any combat environment, having "boots on the ground" can be the deciding factor in an operation. The mission for counting those boots at deployed locations falls on the Personnel Support for Contingency Operations Airmen.

The four-person PERSCO team here, composed of servicemembers from Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, and Will Rogers Air National Guard Base, Okla., remains open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide accurate strength accountability, casualty reporting and personnel support for all Airmen assigned.

Each team provides in-place support to deployed Airmen and commanders by using a laptop capable of accessing and integrating plans and personnel information. This gives commanders a view of deployed forces within their area of responsibility, said Maj. Edwin Caro, chief of the readiness operations branch at the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph.

"This unique capability enables deployed commanders to make informed decisions on force presentation," he said. "Deployed PERSCO teams deliver personnel services, utilizing their extensive knowledge and reach-back capability located at the Air Force Personnel Contact Center at AFPC."

Any PERSCO team's "first and foremost" role is to ensure people are ready to fill all the job requirements at their deployed location, said Master Sgt. Jim Yee, personnel manager for the team deployed here from AFPC.

"Our effort ensures we have the right people in the right place and at the right time to accomplish the mission," Sergeant Yee said. "We are in the business of taking care of people. Making sure everyone's personnel needs are cared for allows them to concentrate on what they were sent here to do.

"Just because they are away from their home station," Sergeant Yee said, "it doesn't mean they aren't entitled to the same service or benefits they receive at their home station."

In many ways, a PERSCO team ensures Airmen receive the same service they would from their home station. Besides making sure all the Airmen are accounted for, they also coordinate a newcomer's orientation and work with the finance folks to begin deployed pay entitlements.

"There's even more," Sergeant Yee said. "We work with our Air Force airfield management people to identify people for flight arrivals and departures to ensure in-and out-processing actions are completed.

What PERSCO, as a whole, brings to the fight is very important to any mission, said Tech. Sgt. Ladonna Pinkston, who is deployed from Will Rogers' 137th Mission Support Squadron military personnel flight.

"We are the folks responsible for counting the boots on the ground," she said. "Accountability is important not only to PERSCO for reporting strengths and rotation needs, but also to the individual (Airmen). Every member of the Air Force deserves and needs to have a complete, accurate history of their military service, (including) operations and duration of each deployment."

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