Day in the life of a non-commissioned officer

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. James M. Hodgman
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs
Day to day life in the Air Force can be challenging at times for Airmen, especially for the service's junior non-commissioned officers. Staff sergeants and technical sergeants must juggle family commitments and their personal goals along with Air Force responsibilities, something that can be a daunting task.

These Airmen represent the Air Force's leaders. Many of them are supervisors and experts on the job.

Here are three of Offutt's NCOs who do their best on a daily basis to handle whatever the Air Force and life throw at them.

Tech. Sgt. Eric C. Ashbaugh, non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the aircraft fuel systems maintenance section for the 55th Maintenance Squadron, is one of these leaders. Sergeant Ashbaugh, a husband and father of two, spends the majority of his days ensuring Offutt's aircraft are ready to accomplish the mission by coordinating shift schedules, aircraft maintenance flow, maintenance equipment and Airmen's training.

Making sure Offutt's aircraft are ready at all times is something Sergeant Ashbaugh said he takes great pride in, and something that brings a great deal of job satisfaction.

"It's easy to derive satisfaction from our job because it's very tangible," he said. "To see your people repairing an aircraft that is needed to meet a tasking from the secretary of defense or by our war fighters downrange, and then see it take off that same day is very rewarding."

Like many Air Force NCOs, Sergeant Ashbaugh keeps himself busy with physical training, writing enlisted performance reports and ensuring the Airmen he supervises are taken care of. However, the biggest obstacle he's had to overcome in his nearly 14-year career, he said, is making sure he spends time with his family and that they understand why he might miss some of life's most important moments.

His eyes look toward the sky as he recalls the time he missed his youngest son's school open house.

"We thought (the open house) was at 5:30 p.m., and I had to be at work for 6:30. But, the event didn't start until 6:30, so we ended up missing the open house," Sergeant Ashbaugh explained. "It's hard because (my son) gets upset because he wants to show us what he's done in school."

When Sergeant Ashbaugh explained why he had to miss the event, he learned his son was disappointed, but understood why.

However, that's not the only moment Sergeant Ashbaugh missed because of his commitment to the Air Force, as he's deployed eight times. Of those eight deployments, seven have come after he became a father.

"I think that's one of the hardest points of military life," Sergeant Ashbaugh said. "Missing birthdays, (holidays), anniversaries or your son's graduation from high school, those things only come around once and you can't get those moments back."

"You just have to understand that you made the choice to serve your country, which requires sacrifice," he said.

Two other NCOs here not only work hard to accomplish the mission, but also try to do right by one another, as they've been married for the past five years.

Tech. Sgt. Joseph H. Brandt and Staff Sgt. Waymie Williams-Brandt, both 55th Wing senior emergency actions controllers, said sharing the same job offers some unique relationship challenges.

As command post controllers, both work a 12-hour rotating schedule of 7 to 7.

At any given time either sergeant could find themselves on the shift opposite the other. This they said, means they must make the most of the time they have together. For Sergeant Brandt, this means being as attentive to his wife as possible.

"It is important for me to be the best husband I can be," he said. "I do this by spending as much time with my wife as possible, always letting her know how much she means to me and sharing responsibilities such as cleaning, doing the dishes or laundry."

Likewise, Sergeant Williams-Brandt said spending time with her husband is important.

"My husband is my soul mate and I don't take anything for granted," she said. "We spend our off days hanging out together and I always tell him I love him. Most people don't think we've been married for five years, because they say we're still so in love."

On the job, both sergeants bear a great deal of responsibility as command post controllers.

"We are the eyes and ears for the 24-hour alert force," Sergeant Brandt said. "When an (emergency) order comes down, we get to break the message and perform our emergency action procedures to ensure the survivability of (Air Force) assets."

Some things command post controllers are responsible for are conducting crisis action team recalls, advising senior leadership of any situation that may arise and notifying base agencies of emergencies.

"I feel important and proud of what we do," Sergeant Williams-Brandt said. "All Air Force members are important, (but) in our job we see results of our actions right away."

"Knowing that your knowledge and reaction time can potentially save the lives of others brings (tremendous) satisfaction," Sergeant Brandt said.

When the Brandt's aren't working or hanging out together, they volunteer in their local community. In recent years the couple has assisted with the River City Round Up, presented the American flag at a San Francisco 49ers game, and built houses with Habitat for Humanity.

However, both sergeants admit all this is about to change because of a new addition to their family expected in July 2010.

"We've been together for more than five years now, so having a child will be a life changing experience," Sergeant Brandt said. "We'll have to wake up (much) earlier than we do now, no more sleeping in, staying up late watching movies or going out to eat when we feel like it."

"We like traveling too, and that's not (really) feasible when you have a baby," Sergeant Williams-Brandt said. "Also, when working opposite shifts or on weekends, when there's no daycare, I'll have to bring the baby to work and hand him or her off to my husband."

The couple realizes that being parents will bring new challenges, but remain confident that they're up to it.

(Editor's Note: This is the second story in a three part series.)