Story by TSgt Daniel Martinez on 08/09/2019Behind every Air Force mission in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility are highly skilled Airmen ready to expertly execute their assigned tasks, and it's all in part to the Personnel Support for Contingency Operations (PERSCO) team that Airmen get where they need to be.
In the month of July alone, the 386th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron's eight-member PERSCO team transitioned more than 1,000 Airmen to and from the AOR to include forward deploying personnel between assigned locations who need a temporary place to rest.
"Accountability that's the main purpose of PERSCO. We're responsible for Airmen when they arrive if they go on emergency leave or anytime they leave the AOR," said Tech. Sgt. Carly Picciano, 386th EFSS PERSCO NCO-in-charge, deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. "Any Airman who comes here will process through us. When it comes to accountability, we need to make sure we have complete accuracy. Everything else falls second."
Accounting for thousands of Airmen may sound overwhelming, but the PERSCO team follows processes that focus on efficiency.
"Our quota is one team-member for every 275 people coming in," Picciano said. "The main focus is to be efficient and have empathy when you're in-processing people. They're tired after traveling, so we try to make sure we get them through as quickly as possible while hitting all of our requirements. You want to make sure it goes right the first time and you're not keeping people longer than you need to."
Because PERSCO is only stood up in a deployed environment, the team also accounts for casualties through casualty reporting while providing the same military personnel section services that are found on any Air Force installation. These duties include customer support for reenlistments, extensions and ID cards to name a few.
Aside from fulfilling routine personnel tasks, Picciano said PERSCO's most important assets are the Deliberate and Crisis Action Planning and Execution Segments (DCAPES) operators. DCAPES is a classified command and control system used for planning and executing deployments, contingency operations, emergency actions and other functions that directly support Air Force operations worldwide.
"DCAPES is important because we track Airmen going to small bases in Iraq and Afghanistan that come through here to spend the night, Airmen going home for rest and relaxation, or those returning home after they complete their deployment," said Staff Sgt. Samantha Meadows, 386th EFSS PERSCO DCAPES operator, deployed from Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona.
Despite the demands of the job, Meadows said she likes meeting the Airmen who travel to and from the base.
"We see everyone whether you're going home or arriving into the AOR," she said. "I like meeting new people, talking to them about what base they're from, where they're going to, what they're job is it's fun meeting and talking with people."
Although a majority of Airmen will travel together through the rotator, the Department of Defense's contracted airline service for deploying service members, some individual Airmen may fly commercially into Kuwait. One way transitioning Airmen can help the transition process is to inform PERSCO about their arrival so they can be accounted for and start the financial entitlements for their deployment.
"Some people fly commercially and don't come through PERSCO to in-process and it makes our numbers get off," Meadows said. "If they arrived but didn't process through us we won't have them down as officially arriving in theater. That can be frustrating because it will affect accountability and delay the deploying Airman from getting their entitlements."
Currently, the PERSCO team is preparing for the next large rotation of transitioning Airmen early next year. Each base in the AOR has a pivot month, or a month where a large influx of personnel movements will take place. Picciano said they will apply the lessons learned from the last rotation and improve the things that could've gone better.
As they anticipate the next phase of deploying Airmen, the team is readying themselves for another successful turnover.
"I actually think it's kind of fun when we get the big missions because you know you're going to be busy and everyone's ready to get going," Picciano said. "It's a good day when it all runs smoothly, the flights on time and we get positive feedback on how well we operate when we in-process Airmen that's the ultimate goal, to process Airmen as quickly as possible and send them on their way."