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'Master problem solver' wins Air Force award

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Tony Bufford is the winner of the Air Force's Outstanding Employee with a Disability Award for 2004.  Paralyzed in a 1990 diving accident, he is a quadriplegic with no mobility from the waist down and limited mobility from the neck down.  As the system administrator for the 81st Supply and Transportation squadrons here, Mr. Bufford is responsible for four local area networks providing service to 287 users and 318 personal computers with $1.3 million of associated equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Tony Bufford is the winner of the Air Force's Outstanding Employee with a Disability Award for 2004. Paralyzed in a 1990 diving accident, he is a quadriplegic with no mobility from the waist down and limited mobility from the neck down. As the system administrator for the 81st Supply and Transportation squadrons here, Mr. Bufford is responsible for four local area networks providing service to 287 users and 318 personal computers with $1.3 million of associated equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFPN) -- The challenge of keeping his computer customers connected is what drives Tony Bufford, winner of the Air Force’s Outstanding Employee with a Disability Award for 2004.

Mr. Bufford, system administrator for the 81st Supply and Transportation squadrons, was also Keesler’s nominee for the award in 2000 and 2001. He receives the award at the Department of Defense’s 24th annual disability award ceremony in Washington in December.

Paralyzed in a 1990 diving accident, Mr. Bufford is a quadriplegic with no mobility from the waist down and limited mobility from the neck down.

“When I was first injured, I didn’t feel like sitting around -- I don’t like to be idle,” he said. “I like being with people, learning new things, keeping up with new products and learning how they can help our customers.”

After years of therapy, Mr. Bufford learned to use arm and hand extensions to type on a computer keyboard. He completed nine months of computer maintenance training at a training center in Jackson, Miss., where he led his class of 120 students.

“But I was still a novice when I came to Keesler 12 years ago,” he said.

He has been in his current position for 10 years, during which he was awarded numerous commercial certifications. He has also completed 40 hours toward a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering.

“Tony’s pride in his work and dogged determination led to recognition and advancement,” said Dave Weekley, Mr. Bufford’s supervisor. “He’s extraordinarily motivated and a super achiever. He displays a thirst for knowledge and works untold hours at home to hone his skills and stay current on new software and hardware.”

Confinement to a wheelchair has not slowed Mr. Bufford down in the least, Mr. Weekley said.

“He demonstrates courage and initiative in his duties, and brings a positive attitude and great sense of humor to the workplace,” he said.

Mr. Bufford is responsible for four local area networks providing service to 287 users and 318 personal computers with $1.3 million of associated equipment. He reduced average system downtime by 75 percent eclipsing base and command-wide standards.

“Tony’s a master problem solver,” Mr. Weekly said. “He consistently takes on tasks to improve his work center’s ability to maintain the highest computer uptime rate in Air Education and Training Command -- an average of 98.9 percent.”

Mr. Bufford said keeping the network running and staying abreast of the latest technology are the biggest hurdles he faces in his job.

He said the most rewarding parts of his job are “the pay, learning new things and working with these bums,” gesturing at his co-workers.

His philosophy is simple, “I hope for the best, expect the worst and try to be prepared for it,” he said. (Courtesy of AETC News Service)

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