Finding a helping hand

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- The Air Force is a busy place. Everyone serves the mission in his or her place, but occasionally that mission will shift or intensify as projects are handed down from major command to the wing, tasks flow from the wing to the squadron, as individuals and units deploy, and as external environmental factors occur.

"My unit needs people. A few extra bodies would really help to increase morale and enable us to excel in our mission, not just scrape by" is a common catchphrase from supervisors faced with the frustration of trying to do more with less.

From time to time we all need help in making sure that the mission is not neglected when these situations happen. Military Personnel Appropriation and civilian overhire positions can ensure we maintain our focus on the home front and accomplish the missions handed down on a broader level.

In a recent article published in the Eielson Polar Press, Capt. Timothy Johansen sheds light on one of the principal ways Air Force Reservists make a difference when embedded with a host unit. As a member of the 940th Services Flight out of Beale Air Force Base, Calif., his article addresses the importance of external support when faced with a decrease in manpower and an increase in operations tempo, particularly when these men and women serve with enthusiasm and pride.

"How much time you have to make a difference is irrelevant," he states. "Time is not a factor as much as having a sense of drive, taking ownership, and exhibiting pride in one's job." Capt Johansen serves as a prime example of how MPA man-days work to augment the home mission.

MPA man-days support the short-term needs of the force by authorizing no more than 139 days annually to non-extended active duty officers and Airmen. These days are offered at the convenience of the government and when there is a temporary need for personnel with unique skills or resources that cannot be economically met in the active force. Pay and allowances for personnel performing man-days come from the MPA account.

Overhire positions are similar, yet filled by civilian personnel with a "not to exceed" date accompanying the appointment. Overhire positions are funded locally or with Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO, and limited to within the current fiscal year. Overhire positions, with the exception of emergency hires, are competed out meaning applicants must qualify for the position in question and cannot fill the position for more than two years.

The process to access these valuable additions is readily available. In terms of MPAs, the active duty unit requesting augmentation must submit a request to the appropriate MAJCOM functional manager. Solid justification of the need is key to an approved request. If approved, AFI 36-2619, Military Personnel Appropriation Man-day Program, provides instructions for the requesting agency to publish orders.

For civilian overhire positions, units must provide a request with justification of the requirement to the manpower and organization office. All overhire approval is based on requirement and available funding. In general, one civilian OCO can be requested per three deployed military members but units can justify workload for overhires above a 3:1 ratio. Justification for OCO funded overhires must include the inclusive dates of deployment to ensure that the positions are being filled and maintained appropriately.

Even though there is help available, it does come with certain caveats. MPA positions are limited by the number of man-days available. Historically, PACAF receives 90,000 man-days for MPAs: PACAF wings usually request 190,000 man-days. Advanced preparation is required, as wing requests need to be submitted to PACAF in August, in order to allocate man-days in January. However, receiving man-days is only half of the battle -- it can still be difficult to find individuals willing to travel to and work at Eielson.

Help on the civilian side also comes with its limitations. Regardless of excellent budget analysis, the funding for overhire positions can be eliminated at any time. Recruitment can also be problematic because employees serving in temporary overhire positions are not eligible for all of the benefits and entitlements of career employment; this includes insurance and career status. This may not seem like an ideal situation for everyone, but it can meet the needs of some potential employees.

For more information on available overhire positions, contact the civilian personnel office at 377-1693. For information on MPA man-days, contact the manpower and organization office at 377-2440.