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Published:December 28th, 2006 07:45 EST

Space Command civilian volunteers to deploy down range

By SOP newswire

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFPN) -- In January, a civilian from Air Force Space Command will be going down range in support of the war on terrorism. The volunteer, assigned the Logistics and Warfighting Integration Directorate, stepped up to fill a base-level planner position for the Air Force.

Michele Kantak, a wife and mother of one, will deploy soon after the new year for a 120-day rotation to Southwest Asia.

"Deploying gets me back to the real reason we're here, to support the warfighting mission," Mrs. Kantak said. "AFSPC is already doing that every day, but it's not the same as being over there and being able to get things done on the spot."

After 11 years of active-duty service, Mrs. Kantak felt it was only fitting that she sign up to go.

"It prevents one of our younger Airmen from having to be away from his or her family one more time," Mrs. Kantak said, "filling a slot that doesn't necessarily have to be filled by a military person."

And yet, Mrs. Kantak knows that volunteering to enter harm's way in service to the country is not a decision to be taken lightly. She had to consider the effects a 120-day deployment might have on her family.

"My husband understands this is a good career move for me as far as growth within civil service," she said, "and he knows this is what I need to do to build my career brief. My daughter has actually been pretty good about it; she has her own e-mail account now, so she will be able to talk to me whenever she wants."

In addition to mentally readying her family and herself for the deployment, Mrs. Kantak has been physically preparing as well. In November she qualified on the M-16 rifle at the U.S. Air Force Academy's firing range and will soon qualify on the M-9 hand gun. She will also complete chemical warfare training prior to her departure.

Although Mrs. Kantak will most likely be the command's first civilian to deploy in 2007, she is not AFSPC's only representative to be in Central Command's area of responsibility.

In early 2006, David King from the 2nd Space Operations Squadron at Schriever AFB, Colo., served a 133-day deployment in Southwest Asia.

After serving on active duty for 20 years with the Air Force, Mr. King became a Department of Defense civilian employee. He has also served in the Reserve for the past five years.

"I collect a pay check from the same place as the captain who works next door with one major caveat, I am not vulnerable to deploy," Mr. King said. "If I collect pay from DOD, then I should share the risk. I took the place of an Airman who, in turn, did not have to go."

While deployed, Mr. King worked with Air Force, DOD, host nation and coalition personnel.

"I supported Operation Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and Joint Task Force Horn of Africa," Mr. King said, "performing duties in communications, plans and implementation."

According to the DOD, the Air Force at any given time, has roughly 30,000 active-duty Airmen supporting the war on terrorism.

However, that estimate does not include the many DOD civilian employees who have voluntarily deployed.

Unknown to many within the Air Force, civilians are regularly presented with opportunities to deploy, but with one constraint; the individual's unit must agree to fund the deployment.

"One reason why the Air Force doesn't get more civilian volunteers is because the organizations don't have the funds to support," Mrs. Kantak said. "The unit has to fund overtime pay, which is a minimum of 32 hours a week.

"Maybe if more people within the civilian community voice their interest, sooner or later the Air Force will provide overall funding for civilian deployments," Mrs. Kantak said. "Right now, most units can't fund the request because it's just too large of a bill."

Mrs. Kantak and Mr. King learned about their deployment opportunities through the Communications and Information Career Program from the Air Force Personnel Center. Every quarter, AFPC sends out an e-mail identifying which positions are available to be filled by civilians and which will satisfy current deployment allocations.

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by Trisha Schmalz
Air Force Space Command Public Affairs