All posts by agonzalez

Continuing the Tradition of “Airmen helping Airmen”


By Beatriz Swann (CMSgt, Ret)
Air Force Aid Society

I joined the U.S. Air Force in 1979 at the young age of 18. I knew the Air Force would offer opportunities that I would otherwise not have if I stayed in my hometown. What I thought would be a short stay in the military ended up being 33 years of service. I retired as a chief master sergeant in 2012 and began my second career as Emergency Assistance Caseworker with the Air Force Aid Society, supporting Airmen and their families every day.

As a young airman, I knew about the Air Force Aid Society. It came up each year during the Air Force Assistance Fund campaign – I understood AFAS was where to go if you had an emergency financial situation – but that’s really all I knew. Later on, in my supervisory positions, I encouraged my Airmen to use AFAS if they needed it but still did not know the full scope of what AFAS was all about. Continue reading Continuing the Tradition of “Airmen helping Airmen”

Eliminating stigma: A leadership responsibility

By Lt. Col. Chris Karns
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

As a child, a close relative of mine committed suicide. In those days, mental health was only discussed in hushed tones and little support was available. I was shaped by this experience and in my military career, I have tried to create an environment where people feel comfortable discussing their problems and supported in their efforts to seek professional help. In fact, I consider this to be a leadership responsibility.

As a squadron commander, I felt part of leadership was knowing the Airmen and creating an environment of trust and support. As an Air War College student, I saw an opportunity to further research mental health and the increased role leadership and communication needs to play in defeating mental health stigma.

Recently, comic genius, renowned actor and USO veteran Robin Williams committed suicide. While this event was tragic, there are lessons to be learned. It helped people recognize that even some who seem to have it all struggle from time to time and need professional help.

Continue reading Eliminating stigma: A leadership responsibility

Spend wisely this holiday season

by Airman 1st Class Andrea Posey
1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

The holidays are fast approaching, and for many this may lead to overspending – a common occurrence among Airmen.

The average family charges around $1,500 on credit cards during this time of the year. Consider this, if your credit card company charges a 14-percent interest rate and you pay only the minimum amount each month, it will take you eight years and cost over $1,000 in interest to pay it off.

The following tips can help Airmen to avoid overspending so they can enjoy the holidays without debt.

· Save throughout the year: Many banks have special savings accounts, called “Christmas Clubs”, you can contribute monthly allotments into to save for the holidays.

· Plan holiday spending: Create a written plan with spending limits for each gift, or draw names with friends and family and only buy a gift for one person.

· Avoid shipping charges: Plan for an additional $10 for gifts bought online to cover shipping costs so you don’t exceed your spending limit. Watch for specials that offer free shipping, or buy a gift card instead.

· Shop year-end sales: Shop after-Christmas deals and put the gift away for next year.

· Portion the holidays: Gift purchases should be portioned by what can be afforded, by cash, check or debit card. Aviod using credit.

· Consider layaway: Many stores offer layaway plans with little-to-no fees. Put gifts on layaway three to four months ahead and make payments over time instead of all at once. Be sure to make layaway payments on time.

· Personalize the holidays: Put thought into your gifts and consider making something instead of buying. Gifts like baked goods, handmade ornaments or pictures in nice frames offer a personal touch.

The holidays are a time to enjoy family and friends. You’ll be able to enjoy it more knowing you won’t be haunted by bills long into the new year.

The government shutdown’s silver lining

Col. James Fontanella, 315th Airlift Wing commander
by Col. James Fontanella
315th Airlift Wing commander

As I write this commentary for the base paper, we are in the tenth day of the partial government shutdown due to the lapse in appropriation. Hopefully, by the time the paper has hit the stands and you are reading this, a budget or continuing resolution has been passed, and the government has reopened. It certainly has been a tough road for all employees, whether military or civilian, DoD or other agency. I’d like to share a few of my observations on what we did right during this extremely challenging time.

We continued to move the mission. This was obviously our first priority and a disruption in mission accomplishment was not negotiable to senior leaders of any branch of the government. Essential operations were prioritized to ensure national security, and support to the warfighter in overseas contingencies did not falter. We quickly learned the differences between “exempted” personnel and activities and “excepted” personnel and activities, and then developed a plan to communicate the orderly shutdown procedure. Contracts, TDYs and non-essential work were all suspended. Although nearly ninety percent of civilian employees were initially furloughed, the cadre that remained behind provided support to ongoing operations with focus and determination.

Being in the position to observe the workload and ops tempo of our active duty mission partners while at the same time experience the part-time contribution of reservist citizen Airmen, I know there was an impact from tapering reserve work while awaiting personnel appropriations. Fortunately, the solid relationships and cooperation that exist on JB Charleston and mutual understanding of the associated wings’ strengths and limitations enabled relatively smooth transitions in and out of mission sustainment sharing.

When the recall of the non-excepted civilians was made to bring all furloughed employees back into work after four days off, there was a collective sigh of relief that was tangible. Understandably, this was a reprieve from the uncertainty of the duration of the furlough and the personal financial impact of unpaid leave. But what was conspicuously lacking were the grievances and gripes of our nearly stoic workforce who had every right to complain. The cumulative effects of a financially tough year might lead some to overreact and act counterproductively. This has not been the case. As with the administrative furlough due to sequestration earlier in the year, my hat is off to all affected employees who endured the government shutdown with class and grace.

We still have a ways to go to get back to normal. Most of our civilian employees and reserve Airmen have worked for IOUs instead of paychecks. But morale is what you make of it. I believe morale is a function of peoples’ character, not their circumstances. The current circumstances have provided plenty of opportunity for a deterioration of our organizations. I am proud to say we are emerging from the crisis in the federal government with our missions, procedures and integrity intact. This is truly a testament to the outstanding character of our people. Keep up the great work!