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Personnel specialists provide combat support to deployed Airmen

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- Staff Sgt. Channa Johnson, 332nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group PERSCO team member, briefs Airmen upon their arrival to Balad Air Base, Jan. 2. Sergeant Johnson is deployed from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alice Moore)

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- Staff Sgt. Channa Johnson, 332nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group PERSCO team member, briefs Airmen upon their arrival to Balad Air Base, Jan. 2. Sergeant Johnson is deployed from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alice Moore)

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- Staff Sgt. Shereka Brown 332nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group PERSCO team member, verifies identification information Jan. 2. Sergeant Brown is deployed from Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alice Moore)

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- Staff Sgt. Shereka Brown 332nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group PERSCO team member, verifies identification information Jan. 2. Sergeant Brown is deployed from Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alice Moore)

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- 1st Lt. Jamie Fanning 332nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group PERSCO team chief and Senior Master Sgt. Tony Pinkney PERSCO superintendent goes over paperwork Jan. 2. Lieutenant Fanning and Sergeant Pinkney are deployed from Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alice Moore)

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- 1st Lt. Jamie Fanning 332nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group PERSCO team chief and Senior Master Sgt. Tony Pinkney PERSCO superintendent goes over paperwork Jan. 2. Lieutenant Fanning and Sergeant Pinkney are deployed from Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alice Moore)

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- "First in, last out" is the battle cry of the Personnel Support for Contingency Operations team, better known as PERSCO. It's definitely the case during a deployment at Balad Air Base, headquarters to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, where PERSCO is responsible for processing more than 7,000 Air Force personnel as they arrive and depart.

The members of the 332nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group's PERSCO team ensure accountability and a variety of other services accomplished daily.
Made up of personnel specialists, the team provides deployed Airmen support 24-hours a day, seven-days a week.

"Our number one priority is accountability," said Senior Master Sgt. Tony M. Pinkney, PERSCO superintendent, deployed from Andrews. "We are responsible for ensuring we have the right amount of personnel with the correct skills and Air Force Specialty Code to complete the mission."

Along with accountability, PERSCO team members here are also responsible for casualty reporting and Red Cross notifications.

"We ensure headquarters and home stations receive all casualty reports in a timely manner so family members back home can be notified immediately the status of their loved ones," said 1st Lt. Jamie S. Fanning, PERSCO team chief, also deployed from Andrews. "Red Cross notifications are equally important. Upon receipt, we notify the deployed first sergeants so they can assist the member with contacting home and obtaining emergency leave when necessary."

The team also acts as a "mini" military personnel flight to provide Airmen support with all their personnel actions, such as delayed and early reporting requests, processing reenlistments and extensions, skill and grade level waivers, and retirements, Sergeant Pinkney said.

Although PERSCO team members work to provide Airmen with a variety of personnel services, the scope of their job doesn't end with helping fellow deployed Airmen. They are also responsible for helping additional customers who they're typically not used to assisting back at home station.

"The operations tempo is higher because we deal with a broader range of customers, which includes foreign nationals, civilian contractors and servicemembers from military bases around the world," said Staff Sgt. Channa D. Johnson, PERSCO team member deployed from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C.

A unique aspect of PERSCO here is that the 10-person team is made up of Active Duty, Reserve and Air National Guard members. Despite the diversity, PERSCO team members say the working relationship couldn't be better.

"Overall, the camaraderie of the shop is good and I think the working relationships that have developed will continue even though we come from different backgrounds," Sergeant Pinkney said. "We went through all the known group dynamic stages, and to look back from day one, we can say that we have had an outstanding and professional deployment."

Now that the team's deployment is winding down, the team members are able to reflect more on their impact and accomplishments with a positive outlook.

"The unique thing about PERSCO is that many of the programs and daily job-related activities here are not the same as home station," Lieutenant Fanning said. "Because of this, it was a bit of a challenge learning a new way of doing business. Fortunately, the entire team is made up of some of the best personnel specialists I've worked with, and we all caught on fast. We've had a great rotation, learned a lot of valuable information and we are looking forward to bringing our experiences and lessons learned back home to share with other Airmen deploying in the future."
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