Saturday, November 19, 2011

More Civil Servants Deploying to Conflict Zones

More than 800 Air Force civilians deployed to various overseas locations in 2010. Projections show that more than 900 will deploy in 2011 and by this time next year, Air Force Personnel Center officials anticipate as many as 1,000 Air Force civilians will be working side-by-side with uniformed members in deployed locations.

Those numbers are expected to continue to rise as mission demands and civilian interests increase, said Tom Kelly, the AFPC Civilian Expeditionary Workforce program manager.

"We've been deploying civilians for years," Kelly said, "but the Office of the Secretary of Defense CEW provides an additional avenue to allow civilians to deploy aside from the (air and space expeditionary force)."

There are hundreds of opportunities to support combatant commander requirements around the world, and Air Force leaders are working hard to increase the civilian footprint in support of those requirements, Kelly said.

"The challenge is to ensure our Air Force members are competitive against other governmental and nongovernmental applicants who are also contending for these opportunities. Selection for a civilian deployment is incredibly competitive, with thousands of America's best and brightest vying for a spot," he said.

Previously, civilians who wanted to volunteer for a deployment went directly to the OSD website to complete and submit an application, he said. Many of those who applied were not accepted.

"In some cases it was because they were applying for something they weren't qualified for," Kelly said. "To help our folks, we created a simple application process that helps prevent that. Before applications go to OSD, we review them and contact applicants if necessary to help them with the process. People who apply want to deploy, so when possible, we'll try to guide them toward opportunities for which they are qualified."

Since the oversight process was implemented, Air Force civilian selection rates have increased from 5 percent in 2008 to more than 23 percent this year, Kelly said. But other factors also contribute to nonselection, so Kelly encourages applicants to "bring their 'A' game."

"You have to ensure that your resume is strong and comprehensive because so many people are applying for CEW positions," he said. "So, you need to make sure you stand out if you want to deploy. It is well worth the time and effort."

Positions are available in a variety of fields including contracting, intelligence, human resources, security administration, finance, civil engineering, public affairs, supply and many more. Those interested in deploying can get more information about the program at the OSD CEW site ( and can review the various opportunities and requirements.

"Volunteers aren't limited to openings in their current fields," Kelly said. "If they have past documented experience and knowledge in another field, they can apply for an opening there."

To apply for one, or as many as three of the opportunities listed on the OSD site, select the "apply" link, and then the "volunteer statement" link that goes to the civilian readiness community of practice page. In the "how to apply" folder is the Air Force application, an application checklist and other related documents.

Volunteers must complete, sign and date the top section of the application, attach their resume and hand-carry the package to their local civilian personnel section.

"The application only has space to identify one position, but volunteers can apply for up to three openings, so all they need to do is provide the same information for their second and third interest areas on a separate sheet of paper," Kelly said.

From there, civilian personnel will make a recommendation and forward the application to the wing commander or equivalent, and then to the major command functional area manager. The MAJCOM FAM will forward it to the Headquarters Air Force FAM and from there it comes to me," Kelly said.

When all required leadership levels have reviewed and made a recommendation, Kelly will submit the entire package to OSD. If OSD selects an Air Force volunteer for deployment, deployment officials will contact Kelly who will notify the volunteer's commander, who notifies the member.

"Although the application process seems cumbersome, it is designed specifically to give Air Force applicants the best chance for selection and allow leadership to have visibility of their resources," Kelly said. "During the application process, commanders or FAMs can recommend disapproval, but they have to submit significant justification for their recommendation and even then, the application will still be provided to OSD."

Once OSD gets the application, the time it takes to make a selection can vary from a week to six months, depending on the number of applicants, required-in-place dates and other reasons.

"That said, a lot can change in someone's life depending on how long the selection process takes," Kelly said. "Applying for a position doesn't mean that a volunteer will be selected, and if selected, it doesn't mean the member has to go."

This same principle of timeliness also allows the Air Force the chance to object if necessary. If the volunteer does accept an offer, Air Force officials have the opportunity to deny it due to mission impairment. However, denial justification must come from a general officer in the member's chain of command, and justification must clearly show that the volunteer's absence would negatively affect his or her unit's mission, Kelly said.

Members selected and approved for deployment will go through the training necessary to prepare them for the experience and ito mprove survivability in the theater, Kelly said, which might include Combat Airman Skills Training. Following training, deploying civilians will outprocess, just as military deployers do, and will depart for their assignment.

Most deployments are 12 months, which doesn't include time spent in whatever training program is required for the location and position.

The process, Kelly said, can be somewhat lengthy, but for those who are interested in an incomparable experience and a variety of related opportunities, it is worth every minute.