Ensuring the right Airmen are in the right jobs to benefit Iraq

  • Published
  • By Maj. Joseph Coslett
  • 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq
When people think about the Air Force making a difference in Iraq, what may come to mind is airplanes projecting airpower, but for one Airman and his team, it is people who make the difference.

Maj. Darrell Board, the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq chief of manpower and personnel, created a standard concept of operations to be used by all personnel teams in Iraq, and increased solid accountability and placement of nearly 5,200 Airmen.

"(Major Board's) contributions are almost too numerous to cover," said Brig. Gen. Russell J. Handy, the 9th AETF-I commander. "In his position, he touches nearly every issue relating to our Airmen from the time they are identified to deploy until they are safely home again with their families.

"In his short time here, (Major Board) and his team shepherded us through a total transformation of our organization, from a coordinating staff agency to a senior command staff overseeing all Airmen in Iraq," General Handy said. "He created and implemented a plan to ensure the right Airmen with the right qualifications, experience and training were in the right job supporting the government of Iraq and joint operations. As important, (Major Board) ensured we had total visibility and accountability of our forces, and was a tremendous wingman to me in our efforts to care for our Airmen in their deployed location."

Serving in Iraq from Aug. 21, 2010, to Feb. 24, 2011, Major Board and his team accomplished 93 waivers, and changed report dates, extensions and early releases, ensuring the best flow to meet the commander's requirements for joint operations.

"My job consisted of managing manpower and personnel processes, monitoring and reporting personnel accountability, working manning and organizational changes, and planning personnel transition and reposturing through end of mission in Iraq," Major Board said. "Bottom line, my job is caring for Airmen."

He leveraged his previous experience as a joint expeditionary task Airman serving with the Army as an adviser to the Afghan army, police and national defense service in Kabul, and personnel and manpower positions to tackle learning where more than 5,000 Airmen were spread across more than 168,000 square miles of Iraq.

"I expected this to be a challenging position due to the intricacies involved with deployed personnel processes and since the Airmen are spread out across the entire country," Major Board said. "By working with great Airmen and networking with subject-matter experts continuously, I was able to overcome any issues."

Master Sgt. Keena Dove-Alston is the NCO in charge and Staff Sgt. Pearl Alomar is the unit travel representative. The team works together to maintain accountability for all Airmen in Iraq and assist commanders to maximize their capability to have the right people for the right mission.

"The manpower and personnel team is doing a great job," he said. "Together we've worked very hard to improve processes and maintain accountability of our Airmen. The work has paid off but there's always more that can be done to improve."

Part of his team's accomplishments was standardizing personnel processes and accountability throughout Iraq. Also, they linked up recently tasked Airmen with the currently deployed members. They found the process important for both involved.

"For the recently tasked member, they're nervous and don't know anything about the deployment ... for example, where they're going, what they'll be doing, what to bring with them," he said. "For the currently deployed member, they're wondering if and when they'll get a backfill. When they finally do, it means they're much closer to seeing their loved ones. Knowing provides peace of mind to both members, and that's important."

Major Board spent many late nights, when other staff members were gone, burning the midnight oil to take care of Airmen.

"My motivation to the Airmen is to do the best that I can to ensure they have the information they need and are taken care of," he emphasized. "An ultimate high for me is when I was able to answer an Airman's question concerning performance reports, decorations, redeployment procedures, sponsorship or any other personnel process. Making it easier for the Airmen, so they could concentrate on their deployed duties is what it's all about."