The 120th Services Flight...Mmm, Mmm, Great!
By Tech. Sgt. Charlie Heit, 120th Fighter Wing
/ Published April 13, 2009
GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- When it comes to services, the 120th Services Flight has raised the bar for the entire Air National Guard.
"It really is fun to attend drill," said Staff Sgt. Crystal Hoffman, an eleven-year member of the unit. As head baker and unit career advisor she gets to mentor the new arrivals. "We have developed a great team, and also it is an enjoyable work place," she said. "I wouldn't be in any other shop on the hill."
Airman 1st Class Sean Birdwell has the same assessment. After basic training and the six-and-a-half week technical school at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, Airman Birdwell hit the ground running when he joined the 120th Fighter Wing two years ago. Airman Birdwell brings a wealth of civilian experience to the Services Flight. "I've been working at the Prime Cut Restaurant in Great Falls for the past four-and-a-half years and the past two-and-a-half years as manager," he said. "My life goal is to become a chef, and the National Guard is helping me to make that a reality."
The 120th Services Flight is comprised of only one AFSC, but there are nine different functional area codes to excel in. Some areas include cooking, baking, and desserts, but Services also extends to include the fit program, morale, recreation and welfare, lodging, laundry and exchange, and mortuary services.
"I wanted to get as far away from food as I could when I joined the Air Guard. I was a waitress at the time of my enlistment, but fourteen-and-a-half years later things have changed," explained Tech. Sgt. Michelle Rue. "Command Chief Larry Seibel said it was a fun career, and he was right. I wouldn't change anything for the world. As the dining hall supervisor, I get a chance to do almost everything. I have the opportunity to train the new folks and in turn I get to re-teach myself and the excitement returns," she said.
Augmenting the enlisted personnel are twenty-five civilians employed by Maintenance Patrol (MP) located in Bozeman. President of MP Raul Luciani says the contract with the Air Guard in Great Falls has been providing local people an opportunity to learn the food service business for the past seven years. Included in that is the expertise of Charles Fulepp. The Croatian born chef is a graduate of the Western Culinary School Institute in Portland, Oregon. The intense two-year course turns one into a world-class chef, cooking for the likes of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Fulepp is scheduled to teach the fine art of cooking to members of the 120th Services Flight in the near future. "By contracting out, it gives us the time to train," said Chief Master Sgt. Marty Leonard. "Just like everybody else on the hill we also are training for our wartime mission. Twice a year the contractors from MP cook the meal. This gives us the time to train," he said.
A portion of the 120th Services Flight Mission statement says it all: to provide the state and nation with well trained and dedicated service professionals, capable and ready to provide unequalled service.
In 2006, the 120th Services Flight won the prestigious Disney Award, signifying the best services flight in the entire Air National Guard. "It was the first time in the history of the award that a unit entering for the first time, received the honor," said Sgt. Rue. "It was a lot of hard work, but when we found out we won, there were a lot of tears-tears of joy of course."
Soon the 120th Services Flight will be merging with the Mission Support Flight, to become the Force Support Squadron, This move is occurring Air Force wide. "I see it as a seamless transition, we already work with personnel with lodging and other matters, so there is some overlap," said Chief Leonard. "I'll challenge any section or shop in the 120th to come over here to see how hard my people work. They prove to me each time I see them in action that I have the greatest team one could ask for," he said.