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Airmen sought for unique, joint program

by Paige Hughes
Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs

10/29/2009 - RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- Air Force officials are seeking Airmen for a three- to five-year period for a Defense Department program aimed at creating greater continuity, focus and persistent engagement across the battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Afghanistan Pakistan Hands program was established by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and will change the paradigm of counterinsurgency forces.

"The APH program will develop and use a cohort of experts who speak the local language, are culturally attuned and are focused on the problem for an extended period of time," said Admiral Mullen.

As a result, APH breaks standard routines in Air Force assignment practices. APH participants will rotate between the region and a home station, dependent on the needs of the region.

Due to the uniqueness of the program, Admiral Mullen made a point of emphasizing that he expects the service officials to take comprehensive action to ensure participants are not placed at a career disadvantage, a concern many have when pulled away from their career field for an extended period of time.

Currently, Air Force officials have been tapped to fill 74 positions of the 304 slated for the program. The requirements are for specific specialty codes and grades, and include both officer and enlisted positions.

Air Force officials have already selected seven Airmen to participate. These Airmen began a four-month language training course Oct. 19 at the Defense Language Services here. Another group of 34 will begin the language training Nov. 2.

"We need the right mix of skills, but the key for selection will be the person who can easily adapt to the mission and has the motivation to face challenges associated with this demanding tour of duty," said Maj. Gen. Darrell Jones, director of force management policy for the Air Force and the Air Force APH program manager.

Air Force leaders will select only the best-qualified Airmen for this program. These Airmen will be released from their core career fields and be fully vested in the program for a period of three to five years.

While experience in the region, language proficiency or a counterinsurgency background are desired, they are not required. Limited language proficiency in Pashtu, Dari or Urdu will be taught at the onset and training in a specific language will continue throughout the program.

Maj. Vince Hodges, a financial officer from Langley Air Force Base, Va., is one Airman who has volunteered for APH.

"I was trying to get over there again when this opportunity came up," Major Hodges said. "A financial officer gains a tremendous amount of experience during deployments."

Other Airmen who began training echo Major Hodges' sentiments, although they admit the requirements of the job will be much different than what they have experienced in the past. Master Sgt. Irene Mason, an engineer from Ellsworth AFB, S.D., said her interest was raised when she first heard about the program.

"My husband is also an engineer and he is deployed now," Sergeant Mason said. "I actually like the deployed work environment, and adding the language skills will be an added benefit."

Sergeant Mason is in the Pashtu training course.

Airmen interested in this program should speak with their supervisor and career field manager.

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