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By Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Hehnly, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 21, 2017
Staff Sgt. Beatriz Zapien, a personnelist assigned to the 386th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron Personnel Support for Contingency Operations sustainment team assists a newcomer with paperwork during an in-processing briefing at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, July 16, 2017. PERSCO conducts in-processing briefings with all inbound personnel to ensure 100% accountability as well as to provide a one stop shop for briefings and paperwork processing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Hehnly)
Servicing the busiest aerial port of debarkation in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, the eleven Airmen assigned to the 386th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron Personnel Support for Contingency Operations team work around the clock to ensure total force accountability of every U.S. military member, coalition partner, Department of Defense contractor and civilian assigned to the base or forward deploying to another location in the U.S. CENTCOM AOR.
“Some people might think that we are just responsible for the place that we are at, but we are responsible for people that we don’t see, we are responsible for people that we’ll see one time coming through here, so that presents a perplexity of its own,” said Master Sgt. Kristal Coleman, the 386th EFSS PERSCO team chief. “On top of that, there comes a point where there is an influx of individuals leaving and arriving at the same time. Sometimes it doesn’t line up perfectly where however many that are out, are the same amount that are in, so for us it just heightens our scope of responsibility for how many people we have coming through here.”
The 386th EFSS PERSCO team’s responsibility covers a wide range of areas throughout the AOR, and as the fight changes, so does their area of responsibility. No one comes or goes without the PERSCO team’s stamp of approval.
“As a member of the personnel support for contingency operations team, I am a part of the first and last group our members see, so I take a great sense of pride in ensuring that all of our troops are accounted for and their records are kept correct and compliant with AFCENT guidelines,” said Staff Sgt. Beatriz Zapien, a personnelist assigned to the 386th EFSS PERSCO sustainment team. “I help members in and out process but my job goes far beyond that. I handle waivers, emergency leave, and personnel records. I am here helping our members have a smoother transition no matter the situation.”
Because individuals are deployed overseas, they do not necessarily have home station personnel support so PERSCO deals with everything from casualty reporting to emergency leave, making sure that those who need to get promoted get promoted, for those who want to get reenlisted to make sure they can get reenlisted, all the way to identification card operations. PERSCO team members work as personnel subject matter experts and maintain constant contact with home station military personnel flights in order to ensure deployed forces are sustained.
The PERSCO team has two major sections. The first section sustains personnel actions, such as emergency leave, promotions, casualties, reenlistments and waivers. The second is the deliberate crisis action planning and execution section that ensures everyone is in the right location at the right time, which not only provides 100% total force accountability but also impacts individuals’ entitlements such as pay and decorations.
“Our PERSCO team cares about if members are getting what they need, when they need, where they need, no matter what location they are at,” said Coleman. “We need to make sure warfighters are focused on what their job is and not worried about their personnel actions. We need to make sure they are being taken care of and whenever they need us that we are just a phone call away. That is why we are 24 hour ops and available for them anytime.”
When emergencies arise at home, PERSCO members are the ones who can track the warfighter in real time, reach out to them and even get them home on emergency leave if necessary.
“In a deployed environment people are my business and they are my concern 24/7,” said Coleman. “I think I have a responsibility and duty to make sure the family members back home know where their members are at and that they are taken care of and that they are getting the pay that they need and the support that they need. We take it very seriously and I take it to heart that they are taken care of.”