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Senior Airman Angelle Ponseti, 442nd Force Support Squadron, reviews a deployment folder while working in the wing assembly area during a phase-one operational readiness exercise, June 4, 2011. The wing is scheduled to undergo an operational readiness inspection, August 2011. The 442nd FSS is part of the 442nd Fighter Wing, an A-10 Thunderbolt II Air Force Reserve unit, Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Danielle Wolf)
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Posted 7/18/2011   Updated 7/18/2011 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Danielle Wolf
442nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

7/18/2011 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- The following takes place between the hours of 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. the day of the wing's operational readiness exercise, June 5, 2011.

Senior Master Sgt. Rodney Kennedy is the superintendent of the 442nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.

10:02 a.m.
"O.K., we have an input, 'Exercise, exercise, exercise,'" Sergeant Kennedy says. "We have a conscientious objector. We need to find out where he works and who he is."
Three inspectors sit back to watch Sergeant Kennedy in action.

Within the next three minutes, Sergeant Kennedy answers the phone twice. Both callers are requesting information that is both necessary and timely - so Sergeant Kennedy must switch gears from the input to help the people on the other end of the line.

Staff Sgt. Peter (P.J.) Koontz, the only other reservist in the room, takes over. He begins flipping through binders and making phone calls in response to the input.

10:05 a.m.
With confidence that Sergeant Koontz has the situation under control, Sergeant Kennedy begins briefing the inspectors how the wing solved issues with building pallets and correcting paperwork.

10:07 a.m.
Sergeant Kennedy pops up from the table where he's briefing the IG to answer a phone call.

"...so that's how we solved the pallet issue, 'Check, got that done!'" he says, returning to the inspectors and emphasizing the checkmark with his index finger. "We have to have the pallets and the paperwork right, but (one particular pallet) may as well have a bull's-eye on it. It screams, 'Come inspect me!' so it has to be right."

The inspectors laugh.

10:20 a.m.
Sergeant Kennedy answers the phone again.

In the meantime, Sergeant Koontz quietly works in the corner of the room. Every few minutes the phone rings and he's forced to switch gears to answer questions from supervisors around the wing. His focus though, still rests on the conscientious-objector input.

The wing commander will have to evaluate the fitness of the Airman to deploy and establish disciplinary actions if the Airman refuses. At this point, there's no time for adversity - not even when it's simulated.

"Sergeant Koontz, I think we're going to have to change the processing time for chalk five," Sergeant Kennedy says. "How many people are scheduled to process?"
Sergeant Koontz replies: "105 maintainers, four (civil engineers), six fighter wing staff, two medics, six security forces and one (communications flight technician.)"

"O.K.," Sergeant Kennedy says, "Since the aircraft departure time is graded, we can't miss that. But we can rush the processing so the maintainers can stay on the ground a few more minutes."

Sergeant Koontz picks up the phone and starts making calls to coordinate the later processing time of the deploying reservists.

Sergeant Kennedy says the maintainers currently have more workload than people, but that the wing assembly area processors can get them through the line quickly.

"The people in the WAA are on their A-game now," he says, "I know they can handle it over there."

10:35 a.m.
Sergeant Kennedy goes to the command post where the crisis action team is set up.

"The commander worked with the conscientious objector, who has now agreed to deploy," Sergeant Kennedy tells Capt. Keith Yersak, CAT member. "Also, the aircraft is still departing at 1430, but we're pushing back the time chalk five needs to be at the WAA. It's now 1230, but Major (Cathy) Roberts already assured me we'd be good."

"O.K.," the captain says with a laugh. "So you're telling me to not freak out when I see yellow and red on my (computer) screen."

"Right," Sergeant Kennedy says confidently. "I know they can handle it over (in the WAA.)"

10:38 a.m.
Sergeant Kennedy returns to his office where Sergeant Koontz is finishing up a phone call.

"Hey, Sergeant Koontz, go take a break," Sergeant Kennedy says. "I can hold down the fort for a few minutes."

Sergeant Koontz says he's been hoping for a break for nearly an hour.

The day before, Sergeant Kennedy says, an inspector injected a scenario that he thought might really shake up the office.

The input didn't worry the wing commander though.

"Friday, the inspector took Sergeant Kennedy out of the fight, thinking the whole thing would fall apart," said Col. Eric Overturf, 442nd Fighter Wing commander. "But that didn't happen, because (Sergeant Koontz) stepped right up. Our logistics people did awesome during this exercise!"

The exercise, Sergeant Kennedy says, is about testing the wing's personal sustainability. The goal is to prepare for deployment.

"It's about making sure we are trained and ready reservists," he says.

10:42 a.m.
Sergeant Kennedy answers two more phone calls. Apparently by pushing back chalk five, chalk six will have to process simultaneously.

"We can get chalk six out in less than 20 minutes, so it should be fine," he assures the caller.

After hanging up, Sergeant Kennedy smiles and begins to tell the history of why they call it a "chalk."

"During World War II, they used to use a piece of chalk to write on their helmets which order the soldiers would get off the buses, so they started saying, 'chalk one, chalk two, chalk three,'" he says.

10:53 a.m.
The giant voice announces a transition back to Base-X. In real-world deployments, his job continues even after the reservists have deployed.

All deployed actions cease for the exercise - reservists are now simulating being in their deployed location for the next few hours.

"Today's nothing compared to yesterday though," he says. "What you see today - is a light day for us. Yesterday people were calling asking about things that would be happening today, but I couldn't even think about that then - every place I've ever lived though, today has come before tomorrow," he says with a smile.

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