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Commander support staffs consolidate at group level

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Col. Max Kirschbaum, 18th Mission Support Group commander, cuts the ribbon on the new 18th MSG Commander's Support Staff office located in building 721B. (Air Force/Airman 1st Class Ryan Ivacic)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Col. Max Kirschbaum, 18th Mission Support Group commander, cuts the ribbon on the new 18th MSG Commander's Support Staff office located in building 721B. (Air Force/Airman 1st Class Ryan Ivacic)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The 18th Mission Support Group became the final group on Kadena to consolidate its individual squadron commander support staffs into one staff that will support all personnel assigned to the group.

"In order to meet our strategic, long-term personnel planning goals, combining the squadron CSS's under the MSG will effectively streamline personnel actions and enhance our capabilities to service mission support group members," said Chief Master Sgt. Michael J. Arnold, 18th Wing Military Personnel Flight superintendent.

The squadrons affected by this recent change, which took place April 2, are the 18th Contracting Squadron, 18th Communications Squadron, 18th Mission Support Squadron, 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron, 18th Security Forces Squadron and the 18th Services Squadron.

Still located in the Bldg 721B, the CSS has been divided into two functions: relocations and employments, and customer support.

The relocations and employments section oversees evaluations, decorations, retraining, separations, assignments, port calls, date expected return from overseas (DEROS), duty status program, personnel reliability program, retirements and unfavorable information files.

Customer support handles promotions duty information updates, reenlistments and extensions, leave program, Weighted Airman Promotion System testing, sponsorship program, accessions, basic allowance for subsistence, preventive health assessments and urinalysis testing.

The hours of operation have also changed, but are on a trial basis. They are Mondays through Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

"Presidential Budget Decision-720 cuts eliminated all personnel positions in two of the group's largest squadrons," Chief Arnold said. "Combining the commander's support staffs allow the Mission Support Group to service everyone equally and ultimately be the most effective use of personnel resources remaining in the MSG."

"The commander's support staff will be responsible for pretty much all the same programs as before, however, some functions will remain at the Squadron level," said 1st Lt. Heather Hultman, 18th Mission Support Squadron flight commander. "However, orders will be generated at the MSG/CSS but they will require the Squadron Commanders signature."

These programs include: government travel card, physical fitness program, fitness improvement program, environmental morale leave, defense travel system, Okinawa Area Emergency Evacuation Procedures and Professional Military Education scheduling.

Other group commander's support staffs such as the 18th Operations Group, merged nearly two years ago with the 18th Maintenance Group completely merged in January. The mission support group CSS is the last of the host groups to make the move. However, according to Chief Arnold, the only exceptions are the 18th Comptroller Squadron and base tenant units. They still have unit-level commander's support staffs.

"The transition seems to be going extremely smooth," said Chief Arnold, "But it's really too early to tell if the consolidation has had a positive, long-term impact on operations. Customer flow is a bit less than we anticipated but system access has been seamless"
"Initially, we thought access to the personnel systems would be the challenging," he added. "The commander's support staff is MILPDS and PCIII capable and operations in that area are streamlined. Products are flowing up and down the chain of command with little to no interruption. We're very satisfied with the outcome so far."