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Program helps deployed Airmen with career decisions

by Senior Airman Carolyn Viss
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

6/25/2008 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- Expeditionary Top IV members here are helping Airmen to make major career decisions while deployed, and far away from career advisors and other personnel specifically trained to help.

The 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Top IV Mentor/Shadow Program, currently managed by Master Sgt. Judy Quintana, gives deployed Airmen seeking information on other career fields the opportunity to follow members of any unit or career field until they feel they are able to make an informed decision about cross-training.

"The program provides an inside view of the (Air Force Specialty Code) they are retraining into or another AFSCs mission," said Sergeant Quintana, a member of the Air Forces Central forward headquarters force protection cell. "We'll provide them with a step-by-step guide on how to submit a cross-training package electronically, as well as partner them up with a specialist in the career field of interest to provide a tour/mission brief of the job."

"This is the busiest base in the (AFCENT) area of responsibility," she said. "It's a great place to learn what the real, wartime mission is. We're here to help guide (Airmen)career decisions in an environment where they are not normally expected to have to think about those things."

Staff Sgt. Enzzo Ferrari, a 379th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron data link maintainer, agrees.

"Being deployed affords the chance to work/interact in a type of military melting pot. While you're in the AOR, you can see how what you do effects the mission. Being stationed at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., I would have never had the opportunity to interact and learn about what loadmasters do out here," he said.

Master Sgt. Melvina Smith, the program co-manager, said most people don't get to see the "big picture" of how each career field works and "how one gear turns another," so Airmen of all ranks and services are welcome to participate, even if they have no plans to cross-train and just want to see another unit's mission.

She and Sergeant Quintana have a list of mentors, and Airman who wish to shadow can simply let them know and they'll find a good match. It can take as little as a few hours or as much as a few days, depending on each unit's schedule and what potential cross-trainees want to see and do.

"I wish I had something like this when I cross trained," said Master Sgt. Will Brown, the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron load super from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., and a Top IV member who acts as a mentor on a regular basis. He "got lucky" enough to get into a career field he now loves after cross-training 15 years ago from the armament systems field, and said he loves being a mentor because he has the opportunity to network.

"I get to learn about your career field while you learn about mine," he said.

"I think the mentor/shadow program gives people a great opportunity to step outside their box and see what else is out there for them," said Sergeant Ferrari, who shadowed Sergeant Brown recently. "Reading about things or hearing about them is one thing. Actually seeing the Airmen out there doing their job is a totally different experience. The camaraderie and teamwork they share is (palpable). This program really helped sway my decision to pursue cross-training opportunities and stay in the Air Force. It gave me some perspective."

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