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Attack Wing, ANG's paperwork power fuels mission

Senior Airman Ameera Blake, a 111th Force Support Squadron customer service specialist, assists a military member with his common access card at Horsham Air Guard Station, Pa, June 8, 2016. Issues dealing with CACs are only one of the many components that encompass the workings of a customer service office in the Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

Senior Airman Ameera Blake, a 111th Force Support Squadron customer service specialist, assists a military member with his common access card at Horsham Air Guard Station, Pa, June 8, 2016. Issues dealing with CACs are only one of the many components that encompass the workings of a customer service office in the Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

Members of the 111th Force Support Squadron Customer Service Office stand for a picture at Horsham Air Guard Station, Pa., June 8, 2016. Members of an Air National Guard wing customer service office provide cradle-to-grave administrative services for not only all military branches, but also military retirees and dependents. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

Members of the 111th Force Support Squadron Customer Service Office stand for a picture at Horsham Air Guard Station, Pa., June 8, 2016. Members of an Air National Guard wing customer service office provide cradle-to-grave administrative services for not only all military branches, but also military retirees and dependents. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

HORSHAM AIR GUARD STATION, Pa. -- There is one constant that follows a military member from cradle to grave: paperwork.

Paperwork allows members to enter an installation, permits computer access, sanctions promotions and even bridges members with medical care. While the aforementioned features are simply a few of military paperwork's functions, the real power isn't the paper - it's the people.

The 111th Attack Wing Customer Service Office here is one such location in the Air National Guard where a handful of Airmen deduce, decode and deliver the documents that realize the total-force mission.

"You have people that fly, people that work in the [logistics readiness squadron] and other places, but each one of them has paperwork that needs to be maintained no matter where they are on base," said Tech. Sgt. Danita Jones, the 111th ATKW's NCO in charge of customer service.

Jones stated that the paperwork customer service offices process is what allows member to not only operate in their work center, but also obtain education benefits, professional military education and bonuses.

From the local to Department of Defense level, without customer service members working behind the counter and behind the scenes, even gaining access to a military installation would be impossible.

"We do all that in addition to [common access cards] and [defense enrollment eligibility reporting system] updates, which is what most people associate with customer service," Jones added about the DEERS and Real-time Automated Personnel Identification System (RAPIDS) station, colloquially referenced to by many as the "the ID card section."

In the Air National Guard, customer service is a feature of the personnel moniker and a branch of the force support squadron.

According to Master Sgt. Anthony Henderson, 111th Force Support Squadron customer service superintendent, personnel also includes offices and roles in human resources, separations and retention. He continued by listing the duties specific to the 111th ATKW Customer Service Office: the DEERS and RAPIDS station, the front counter's face-to-face service section; awards and decorations processing; promotions paperwork; retainability and reenlistment administration and career-extension documentation.

In addition to the far-reaching role of a customer service office, there is the diverse population that utilizes its specialties.

From cantankerous toddlers, to longtime military retirees, to servicemembers from across the various branches, the 111th ATKW Customer Service Office hosts them all.

"Patience," said Henderson. "Patience and ensuring that we are giving our customers the correct information are the keys to running an efficient office."

In fact, along with people skills, Jones states that the chief expectation she has of her fellow customer service Airmen is a judicious practice of providing correct answers.

"And if I don't have the correct information for you, I'll get it," said Henderson. "We're not afraid to tell a customer that we aren't sure of an answer; because if you give a person the incorrect information, that can affect their life. Somehow, no matter what, we will find out that correct answer.

"Sometimes, the answer is not what the customer wants to hear, but it's critical in maintaining our credibility."

Jones agrees that a challenge of the customer service field is telling a customer that their question needs to be answered by another section or individual. She also stated that they sometimes deal with customer discontent when an action must be forwarded to a higher-level administrative party.

"We have limitations to what we can control on this [wing] level," said Jones. "There are many actions that we don't have the rights to access and must be handled at a higher level."

Despite some limitations, having an overall committed and well-oiled military machine in the customer service sector produces a contented customer and smoother-running mission. Henderson believe that the 111th ATKW can boast this attribute in the office he supervises.

"I truly believe in this team," said Henderson. "This teams comes first, no one person comes first; I truly believe that. I don't believe that this section could function if someone had a 'me' personality. We get letters, we get phone calls saying how our Airmen went above and beyond. And that's due to each person in here."