News: Expeditionary Airmen escort third country nationals
Story by Cassandra Locke
SOUTHWEST ASIA -- About 150 Airmen are deployed to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing to monitor 450 to 600 third country nationals (TCNs) who are critical to many daily activities.
"We provide quality control over the TCNs and ensure they don't do anything they aren't supposed to," said Staff Sgt. April Cooper, 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, TCN escort.
Cooper said without the TCN escorts, many of the vital duties that are necessary for the base to function would not be accomplished. These duties include cleaning restrooms, providing sewage and trash services, cooking and serving food at the dining halls, working on construction projects and other tasks.
A normal routine is hard to come by for the Pearland, Texas, native. The schedule is produced weekly and every Thursday holds the next week's experience.
"My day starts at 5 a.m. and I work a nine hour shift, which isn't too bad," said Cooper. "We drive to various locations around the compounds and clean designated areas," said Cooper.
These Airmen are the main people to interact with the TCNs on a daily basis, so it's important that they are vigilant at all times.
"We are the front line defense against a TCN possibly asking questions they don't need to know, or taking pictures or notes of things around base," said Staff Sgt. Cori Ash, 379th ECES TCN escort. "We are the first ones to notice that stuff happening, so we are the ones to put a stop to it."
The Galt, Calif. native, deployed from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, said her main focus while working is to make sure they are not doing anything outside their normal routine.
"We make sure they aren't looking in the trash cans, taking pictures or writing notes," said Ash.
Airman 1st Class Christopher Kaneaster volunteered for this assignment and is deployed from Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
The New Egypt, N.J., native said his big responsibility is monitoring the TCNs for suspicious behavior. He makes sure the TCNs are not monitoring discussions, counting aircraft or using unauthorized electronic devices. The Airman said that there is one escort per 10 TCNS and at the Combined Air Operations Center there is one escort to every five TCNS.
Most of the construction sites are taxing because they have little to no shade and the escorts pull eight to 12 hour shifts. With the longer hours and weather conditions, the escorts and TCNs come to work and are anxiously ready learn from each other.
"Everyday the TCNs show up with a smile and ready to work, I am in constant amazement of their grace," said Cooper. "This job has given me the opportunity to interact with different cultures. The best part is the learning experience," said Cooper, who has learned Arabic from the TCNs.
"The part about my job that I like is getting to meet new people, both co-workers and TCNs. I like talking to the TCNs and learning a few words in their language. As far as co-workers go, we are an awesome group, so I'm having fun getting to know them," said Ash.
Regardless of the task at hand, the 379th ECES is dedicated to ensuring the safety and security of the base by keeping a watchful eye on all TCN personnel.