NEWS | Jan. 22, 2014

It's your career ... own it!

By Senior Airman Ashlee Galloway Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Voluntary separation, retention boards, roll backs, TERA, early retirements, chief master sergeant retention boards ... if these words don't grab your attention, then you've been hiding from the truth.

In a letter to Joint Base Charleston Airmen, Col. Jeff Devore, Joint Base Charleston commander and Col. Darren Hartford, 437th Airlift Wing commander, said, "... the Air Force has announced several new programs to help reduce manning by approximately 25,000 Airmen over the next five years."

Twenty five thousand?

Paying attention yet?

So how can any young Airman, faced with all this uncertainty, be sure to get the correct information he or she needs in order to make the right decisions regarding their futures?

"We are here to give Airmen an opportunity to make informed educated decisions for themselves," Joint Base Charleston Career Assistance Advisor Senior Master Sgt. Michelle McMeekin said.

Career Assistance Advisors help answer common questions that Airmen may have, such as retraining program requirements, making informed decisions on what path to take for a career, re-enlistment questions, and now, questions about the force management downsizing.

"Now is the perfect time to have a Career Assistance Advisor; with all the Force Management programs underway - it can be very confusing for our Airmen," said McMeekin. "Having additional resources available to walk through the criteria and options is very valuable and can alleviate some of the stress of the situation. Information truly is power in this case."

There are many different agencies on base Airmen can utilize to find out more information about Force Management; they include the Military Personnel Flight, Veterans Affairs and the Air Force Reserve recruiter located in the MPF building, the Airmen Family Readiness Center and the Education office.

The first source of information for all Force Management issues is MyPers, located on the AFPortal; This link will take you to the page which contains all the FY14 Force Management programs and the Personnel Services Delivery Memorandums for each one. Individuals should take the time to go out and look at each applicable document and read through it for themselves.

"The biggest thing we ask Airmen to do is to review records on virtualMPF," said Staff Sgt. Tomeka Robinson, 628th Career Development craftsmen and primary source for Force Management questions on JB Charleston - Air Base. "Airmen need to make sure they research their options before they make a decision on what they want to do. Review records on Personnel Records Display, located on the Air Force portal, pull a Single Unit Retrieval Formatof your records, and talk to your leadership."

You can contact Robinson or Tech. Sgt. Lonnie James, 628th Career Development noncommissioned officer in charge at 963-8921 or 963-4528 if you have questions regarding the downsizing.

As a Career Assistance Advisor and secondary source, McMeekin can answer questions regarding who will be affected by the down-sizing, what options Airmen have in regards to voluntary opting out of enlistment contracts, staying in the Air Force, early retirement and much more.

McMeekin said she often comes across Airmen who know what they want to achieve in the Air Force but just don't know which direction to take. And now, with all the new programs designed to pare down the Air Force, with her help, Airmen can get the answers they need and move towards the next stage in their lives.

"I want to educate our Airmen about different opportunities they have and what paths they can take," said McMeekin. "Our biggest goal is to train and educate each Airman so they can make these decisions themselves; to teach them how to fish, but not give them the fish."

Like many Air Force members, McMeekin joined the Air Force before college in search of something greater than herself. More than 25 years later, she has held five different Air Force Specialty Codes, earned Community College of the Air Force degrees in Information Management, Instructor of Technology and Military Science and Social Services, holds two certificates in training as an occupational instructor and professional manager, and has a Bachelor of Arts degree.

"I think being in all of these career fields and seeing so many different aspects of the Air Force have really helped me in my role as a Career Assistance Advisor," said McMeekin. "Not only have I done so many different things in the Air Force and learned all the different opportunities for career broadening we have out there, I was one of those Airmen that didn't like the job the Air Force had put me in. I loved the Air Force and I wanted to stay. Finding something new to do ... that is what has allowed me to stay in for 25 years successfully."

If there is just one thing McMeekin would like Airmen it would be for each Airman to understand that it is important to educate yourself about your own career.

"Your career is most important to you. It is extremely important for you to become as educated as you can about things that may affect you," McMeekin said. "Whether it is the Air Force Instructions that govern our dress and appearance, or the AFI that governs how and when we get paid, re-enlistments or the promotion process, it is extremely important for Airmen to be educated and not rely on someone to tell them what the right answers are. There is always a possibility that your situation is an exception that we have not run across yet. You need to be your own best expert.

Always ask, 'can you show me in the AFI or the supplement where it says this information, so that I will know for next time?' You are your own best advocate for your career."