Course gives officers new outlook on force support

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- The first Force Support Officers' Course graduated 57 officers Dec. 11 at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., with Lt. Gen. Richard Newton on hand to congratulate the officers on their achievement.

"These outstanding officers made history as they walked across the stage," said General Newton, the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services at the Pentagon. "They just completed a rigorous nine-week course that incorporated skill sets from three legacy career fields - manpower, personnel and services. This training gave our men and women a clearer understanding of how a base runs and cares for Airmen; an understanding that postures them as key advisors for their commanders on all things dealing with force support."

In 2006, Air Force officials began merging the manpower, personnel and services career fields to streamline programs responsible for "all things people" - from force development to taking care of families and everything in between. The new 38F Air Force Specialty Code, which incorporates services with the previously merged manpower and personnel career fields, came on line Oct. 31.

Instructors representing each of the three specialties taught the basics of each field to prepare the officers to fill billets in any of the areas of the 38F career field.

"The key is that you do need to know all of this information, although you may only be applying a part of it," said 2nd Lt. Lori Alix, a full-time Guardsman at the Joint Force Headquarters in Milford, Mass. "Just because I am in manpower now doesn't mean I won't need this information later. If someone needs information, we need to make sure we have it.

"We won't be experts, but we will know what our roles and responsibilities are," she added

The field training exercise, held at Tyndall AFB, Fla., gave the officers the chance to apply their new skills as they worked in many areas during the weeklong exercise, including personnel accountability, manpower requirements, food service, lodging, mortuary, and command and control.

Now deployment-ready, these force support officers will have many opportunities to prove their value as they go into theater and as their installations continue transforming from mission support squadrons and services squadrons into force support squadrons, according to Capt. Michael Stone, 335th Training Squadron mission support training flight commander, who also now falls under the 38F career field.

"Force support officers will be tasked often," said class member Lt. Col. Kathy Pallozzi, who works at the Pentagon and is a former public affairs officer. "I look at these young lieutenants and I think, 'Wow. They are going to be the heartbeats of the base. They are going to be leading these functions to support the warfighter.' When I was a lieutenant, I don't remember being that smart."

These officers are the first to wear the function badges of the new 38F career field. Guidance on the authorized wear date of the badge and skill level eligibility is being determined at the Air Force A1 board of directors meeting that concludes Dec. 17 in Warrenton, Va., and will be provided to the field as soon as the information is available.