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Small IDRC supports big ops-tempo

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Increasing numbers of Airmen are deploying from Schriever to fly, fight and win the Global War on Terrorism. 

The job of preparing these Airmen for their deployments falls to one of the smallest installation deployment readiness cells in the Air Force -- and the Schriever IDRC manages the array of diverse missions with aplomb.

The IDRC does its mission with four people -- Jim Freshwater is the installation deployment officer. First Lt. Jonathan Lee and Staff Sgts. Alyson Gardner and Delaney Rakosnik are assigned to the office as well. On paper, however, the IDRC has only two authorizations: one logistician and one personnelist.

"We're actually the smallest IDRC in the Air Force in terms of authorizations," Mr. Freshwater said. "One of the biggest challenges we have here is doing our job with the number of people we have."

The IDRC is responsible not only for the 50th Space Wing but also for tenant units on base -- a total of more than 2,100 servicemembers, according to April 2007 base population statistics. As of Sept. 4, approximately 90 Schriever servicemembers were deployed, with about 100 preparing for deployment between September and April in support of the upcoming rotation of Air and Space Expeditionary Forces 9 and 10, Mr. Freshwater said. About 25 percent of those currently deployed will return between September and April.

What makes Schriever unique isn't the number of Airmen deploying, but the variety of their assignments, Mr. Freshwater said. In addition to Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, Airmen may also deploy to Honduras, Colombia, Kosovo, Germany, Ecuador and locations within the continental United States. That diversity of deployed locations makes Schriever and many other Air Force Space Command bases distinct from bases in Air Combat Command, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Pacific Air Forces.

"Every deployment we manage is unique," he said. "When some bases deploy, they send the entire wing: if the whole wing is going to Balad Air Base, Iraq, you only have to worry about deployment requirements for Balad AB. We get smaller deployments 20 to 25 different locations, and every one of those deployments has special requirements, so we manage each one. Every person deploying comes through me.

Mr. Freshwater worked in Strategic Air Command, PACAF and USAFE before coming to AFSPC. The transition from deploying an entire unit to deploying individuals was an eye-opener, he said.

"The mission here is different, but no less important," he said. "The space mission is definitely important, especially the space effects mission we provide from home station." 

Many of the taskings coming down are for security forces Airmen, with a significant impact on the 50th Security Forces Squadron as a result, Mr. Freshwater said. Airmen in communications and electronics career fields are also in high demand.

"After that, it's a dog race," he said. "Space operators, contractors, comptrollers, command post, civil engineering Airmen ... just about every unit's getting hit for somebody."

Although the mainstay of Schriever's satellite operators are deployed in place, an increasing number of space operations officers deploy as liaisons, allowing them to "talk space" with combatant commanders.

"We now have people on the front line who can give commanders a better picture of what space can do for them," Mr. Freshwater said. "Space's role will become more apparent as we deploy more space operators to the theater -- if the warfighter has a space operator at the front, the fighter pilot who needs satellite communications knows where he can reach back. I think we'll continue to expand in-theater knowledge of the combat effects we provide here and what we bring to the fight."