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Finance Airmen driving the mission among COVID-19, teleworking concerns


PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Senior Airman Kaci Martin, a 21st Comptroller Squadron financial analyst, takes a photo with her family in her home gym, April 1, 2020 at her home in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Martin has been navigating the challenges of telework while homeschooling her two children and competing her own schoolwork. Though it hasn't come without it's stressors, Martin credits her husband, and the resources the Air Force has provided her, with helping her maintain her readiness and resiliency. (Courtesy photo)


Senior Airman Joseph Kerlavage, a 21st Comptroller Squadron financial operations technician, completes his day-to-day taskers April 1, 2020, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. Though much of the force is working from home, Kerlavage has been one of the 21st CPTS's top performers, ensuring the mission is accomplished regardless of circumstances. (Courtesy Photo)


With much of the force working remotely, it can be easy to get bogged down with technical challenges and distractions. With a stay-at-home order in effect across the state, many people find themselves attempting to access the virtual private network or the outlook web access website as children or the latest tiger documentary play in the background.

As people navigate the challenges of telework, two finance Airmen have been focused on their mission.

Senior Airman Kaci Martin, 21st Comptroller Squadron financial analyst and Senior Airman Joseph Kerlavage, 21st CPTS financial operations technician, have been navigating through telework issues to ensure the mission is accomplished, regardless of the circumstances.

“Even though the network is challenging us and we are working from home, the mission remains the same.  We have seen significant improvements to VPN access based on the AF’s efforts to expand the number of users that can be on the virtual network at one time,” said Martin. “If I could compare our duties today, during COVID-19, to an average day in the office, I would say the units’ needs have increased. We aren’t working the normal Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. duty day anymore. We are working those and then some. We get calls on the weekends and after hours, even in the middle of the night to certify documents that are urgent for our tenants.”


Kerlavage echoed the same sentiment.


“The most difficult part is getting into any systems,” said Kerlavage. “I need them to analyze pay records and respond to customers.  If it's not working the way it should, it really hinders my ability to be helpful at all. One workaround is coming in after hours when everyone else is off the network.”


However, Kerlavage said the change in operations has had some positive impacts to their mission, including conciseness and compassion.


“Our mission is really focused,” said Kerlavage. “The small things have sorted themselves out and we are making sure the job gets done. I come in and I do what I need to do to keep my program within standards and make sure our teammates are taken care of. People are more succinct with questions and paperwork because of the current crisis and I appreciate that we all understand one another's crunch time right now.”


Kerlavage’s day-to-day activities include researching and coding, which he said he enjoys because of the challenge.


“My favorite part is the really tricky or confusing stuff,” said Kerlavage. “For anybody who has sat at my desk, they know how hard it is to navigate the ‘matrix’” (a common term among FM for the Defense Joint Military Pay System). “When I have something I can sink my teeth into and fix or figure out, it becomes a lot more interesting and reminds me my work isn't just copy-paste. On a snow day, sure, finance may not be mission essential, but for something like this I have no doubt in my mind what role we play and where we fit in the puzzle.”


Though they make teleworking look easy, both say it does not come without challenges. For Martin, one challenge is taking care of her two children, Raiden and Brooklyn.


“I have two kids, who are eight and five,” said Martin. “It is challenging balancing being an Airman, wife, mom, newly promoted homeschool teacher, as well as being a part time student myself. This is an absolute crazy and bumpy journey I wasn’t expecting to take. Even though this journey is extremely challenging and new, it’s not for nothing. I have two little humans who are watching and learning. I have to constantly stop and remind myself to take a break and breathe.”


Through the trials and tribulations, Martin said she is grateful for the support she has received from her husband, Joey, and encourages Airmen to take advantage of the various helping agencies on base.


“My husband helps me a lot,” said Martin. “He is my constant reminder that everything happens for a reason and that it’s OK to not be OK once in a while. We all need someone to lean on when times get rough. Peterson has a lot of great resources available, and we are very lucky to live in a time where it’s no longer acceptable to just ‘embrace the suck.’”


She continued,


“Speak up! Reach out to the resources we have, reach out to a coworker…Even reach out to me. Someone cares. Someone is there. I am here. Cheesy or not, we are a team and a family and especially in times like these, we have to look out for one another.”


Kerlavage said he stays resilient by spending extra time with his dog, and encourages his fellow Airmen to be conscious and take the time to maintain their resilience.


“Stay focused, lethal and dominant,” said Kerlavage. “We know how much we need each other and we know what it takes to do more with less. Don't forget to get some sunlight and fresh air!”


Regardless of the circumstances, Martin and Kerlavage are working hard to support the ongoing mission. And, for Peterson Air Force Base, that mission isn’t limited to the confines of the base.


“Our team plays a major role in keeping Peterson and our tenant units we service rolling,” said Martin. “Though COVID-19 put a halt on many things, Peterson still has a mission…We are a space base after all. Our mission isn’t just on the ground. Our mission never stops, and neither will we.”

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