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Civilians add stability during emergencies

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Christopher A. Marasky
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
Airmen here are fighting the base during this week's local operational readiness exercise Beverly High 08-04 and a special group of civilians is right alongside them contributing to the mission.

These civilians, categorized as "Emergency Essential," stay with military forces even if a non-combatant evacuation order is issued in the event of a regional crisis in the Pacific.

"Emergency essential personnel are civilian positions required for direct support of combat operations," said Gary Stewart, 18th Mission Support Squadron Civilian Personnel Office acting chief. "These positions must be continued and could not be immediately met by using deployed military possessing the skills in the areas needed to meet combat operations."

This role is particularly important with AEF rotations taking many Airmen out of their shops, he said. Emergency essential civilians stay back and provide mission continuity.

Kadena Air Base has a large number of organizations with civilians in this category. One of these is the 18th Operations Support Squadron.

"The 18th OSS 'civilian warriors' are force enablers," said Gary Brown, 18th OSS air traffic control specialist. "In the 18th OSS, we understand the importance of civilians in sustaining the continuity of programs over time and the detailed mission and location-specific knowledge they offer."

The heightened exercise training these civilians get is necessary since during wartime they will be filling their roles as combatants during contingency operations, according to the 18th Wing Judge Advocate's office.

Emergency essential civilians understand and fill their role in the wing's mission, despite the added requirements (such as local exercises) said Roger Noyes, 18th Mission Support Group deputy director.

"We are responsible for working with squadrons to help ensure we have a well-oiled mobility machine," he said.

The commitment to their work is noticed by their military counterparts, who work with and exercise next to them, said Mr. Brown.

"There is a very high level of mutual respect between the military and civilians in our work center," he said. "Of course both the military and civilians members are professional experts, and the only difference is what the civilians wear."

In the end, emergency essential civilians can find pride in being able to provide a full, wartime role as part of Team Kadena.

"I feel it is an honor and personally gratifying to be able to work alongside the men and women of the 18th Wing while we face the many challenges of a LORE," said Mr. Noyes. "What really stands out is when a civilian is in MOPP 4 and wearing individual protective equipment reacting to alarm conditions just like our active duty Airmen teammates."