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Deployment opportunities available for civilians

Bob Perry and Capt. Christian Thompson assess the damage done to a high voltage electrical line while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in July 2007.  The line, which leads to a children's hospital, was damaged by an improvised explosive device. Earlier this year, Air Force senior leaders outlined their vision for supporting Department of Defense civilians to serve in global expeditionary positions through a program called the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce. (Courtesy photo)

Bob Perry and Capt. Christian Thompson assess the damage done to a high voltage electrical line while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in July 2007. The line, which leads to a children's hospital, was damaged by an improvised explosive device. Earlier this year, Air Force senior leaders outlined their vision for supporting Department of Defense civilians to serve in global expeditionary positions through a program called the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce. (Courtesy photo)

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Whether it's helping Iraqis with reconstruction projects or assisting Afghans with their motor pools, the Air Force relies on its civilian work force to help meet its global mission requirements.

And the Air Force is not alone. In 2007, more than 1,100 Department of Defense civilians volunteered to fill 129 provincial reconstruction team positions in Iraq. Although the deployment of civilians is not a new concept, that show of support demonstrated to defense officials the need to find more opportunities for civilians to deploy.

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz released a memo March 8 outlining their vision for supporting DOD civilians to serve in global expeditionary positions through a program called the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce.

"Some civilians have never deployed and want to serve, while others have deployed while on active duty and miss the experiences and rewards that only a deployment can bring," said Maureen Rudell of the Air Force Personnel Readiness Division at the Pentagon. "Civilians want to serve and be a part of the team, but haven't, until now, had the benefit of an integrated and organized process to volunteer."

That process begins with a visit to the CEW Web site at www.cpms.osd.mil/expeditionary/. Once there, civilians can follow the Air Force-specific procedures.

Members of the Air Force Personnel Center's Program Management Support Division serve as the lead in processing the civilian volunteer packages.

"We check the applicant's documents, which include a resume and a volunteer deployment statement, to make sure they are correct and complete," said Ronald Freund, the division's technical advisor.

Prospective volunteers can submit deployment packages for positions unrelated to their job requirements as long as their current positions are not listed as emergency essential.

"Clearly, there are more opportunities for civilians to deploy including allowing them to fill military requirements in less hostile areas," Ms. Rudell said. "As the DOD mission continues to evolve and change, taking advantage of civilians' expertise will become increasingly important and will help them stay relevant in the workplace."

Bob Perry of Edwards AFB, Calif., agrees. As chief of the project provisioning flight at the 412th Test Support Squadron, he helps develop and train project managers who oversee flight test projects such as new weapon systems and other experimental flight-testing evaluations. In early 2007, he responded to the call for civilian volunteers in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and was assigned to an embedded provincial reconstruction team at Camp Liberty in Baghdad.

"Working on the flight test side at Edwards, I understood the importance of delivering warfighting capabilities on time and on budget," he said. "However, being deployed and depending on the reliability of those capabilities in real time gave me a whole new perspective on the meaning of what we do."

As the senior industrial advisor to the brigade commander, Mr. Perry and his team worked directly with the Iraqi government in providing centralized services, such as electrical power and critical construction support.

"I was able to see firsthand the results of our team's efforts," he said. "I encourage others who are offered the same opportunity to take advantage of it."