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Guardsmen volunteer to assist with conversion

Staff Sgt. James Steffenson, a fuels maintenance specialist with the 120th Fighter Wing in Great Falls, Mont., sorts incoming parts for the 120th Logistics Readiness Squadron. He volunteered to assist the squadron during the wing conversion to the C-130 Hercules air transport mission. National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson.

Staff Sgt. James Steffenson, a fuels maintenance specialist with the 120th Fighter Wing in Great Falls, Mont., sorts incoming parts for the 120th Logistics Readiness Squadron. He volunteered to assist the squadron during the wing conversion to the C-130 Hercules air transport mission. National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson.

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- The 120th Logistics Readiness Squadron has enlisted the help of seven Guardsmen to assist them temporarily as the 120th Fighter Wing continues its mission conversion from F-15 Eagle fighters to C-130 Hercules aircraft.

The Guardsmen, nearly all members of different Montana Air National Guard career fields, have been working full time for the supply squadron during a 45 day tour scheduled to be completed at the end of September.

"The conversion to the C-130 from the F-15 has created a lot of extra work for us here in the Logistics Squadron," said Maj. Joseph Ferda, acting 120th Logistics Readiness Squadron Commander. "We're receiving lots of extra parts that we normally wouldn't receive on a daily basis. And of course, we're still supporting the day-to-day mission of flying the F-15 and so there's lots of work receiving and shipping out the F-15 parts."

The 120LRS has employed additional personnel before to assist with major projects, but they've usually been recruited from within the squadron. This was the first time the squadron has relied on such a large number of volunteers who have stepped up from other areas of the wing to help.

The 120LRS leadership looked for a strong work ethic when they requested volunteers to assist with conversion-related activities. They weren't disappointed in the level of excitement offered by the volunteers.

"I think it just brings to the forefront the wingman concept," said Chief Master Sgt. James Robertson, 120th Logistics Readiness Squadron Operations Superintendent. "It's not about LRS. It's not about the Mission Support Group. It's about the wing succeeding. And these folks stepping up and volunteering to make the wing successful is the great thing that I see in this."

With the exception of daily safety briefings and some brief on-the-job training, the Guardsmen have stepped in and hit the ground running.

They've proven to their supply counterparts that they've got the confidence, the drive and the ability to complete the job. But most of all, they've shown that they are team players for the MTANG.

"There's really an awesome sense of teamwork, they look out for each other and have that sense of accomplishment," said Ferda. "They really feel like they're doing important work for the wing as we go through this conversion."

Many of the Guardsmen have taken leave from their regular jobs in Great Falls and some are in between full-time civilian employment. But all of the volunteers are highly motivated to see a successful C-130 mission conversion completed for the 120th Fighter Wing.

"I think it's important because we all work for the same mission," said Staff Sgt. James Steffenson, who serves as a fuels maintenance specialist by profession and is a volunteer assistant warehouse clerk for the 120LRS.

"We are all converting, and supply has more than they can handle because they are getting ready for the new mission, so I think it's very important to help out," Steffenson said.

The Guardsmen work in all areas of the supply career field during their active-duty tour. Their regular day of work in base supply could include warehousing parts, conducting inventories or moving cargo.

"There's a lot of extra work for them right now, so we're here to help them through the hard times and to get through it," said Staff Sgt. Brenda Lorance, who serves as a non-destruction inspection specialist in the MTANG and has volunteered to assist 120LRS as a supply helper. "We're all part of the mission and you need everyone to make it work."

The temporary positions have also provided an opportunity to educate the workers on what logistics is really about. The active-duty tour has been an eye-opening experience to many of the Guardsmen who now know that base supply is an entity that does much more than issue parts.
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