Exchange program works to retain Airmen

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MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. (AFNS) — In an effort to educate, retain and expand the views of Airmen here, a civil engineer squadron member has recently started an Airmen exchange program.

“It’s important that we allow Airmen to have that broader view in the beginning because it saves our great Airmen,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jeremy Huggins, the 22nd CES chief enlisted manager. “We have some good Airmen that are mismatched in a job, so why not retain that great Airman and align their job with what their desires are.”

Airmen from different career fields are partnered together to experience each other’s job for a day. The Airmen not only get the opportunity to become familiar with a new job, but they are able to teach others about their job as well.

“Being a cross trainee myself, I see the importance in (this program),” Huggins said. “I liked the Air Force — I didn’t like the actual job I was doing. When I came into a job I really enjoyed, it made all the difference in the world for me, and here I am 20 years later.”

Huggins recently paired Airman 1st Class Donald Marfisi, a 22nd CES firefighter, with Airman 1st Class Christian Bowdre, a 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief.

Marfisi went to the flightline, where he marshalled and hot de-fueled a KC-135 Stratotanker, and Bowdre accompanied him to the fire station where they ran through survival drills.

“This was a valuable experience,” Marfisi said. “It gave me a chance to show off my knowledge of the job and how far I’ve come since I’ve been here. You don’t think about how well you’ve mastered skills until you’re showing someone how to do it.”

For Airmen who may not yet be in their cross training window, this program also doubles as an awareness effort for Airmen to see the other side of the coin.

“Being out there and seeing what they did was enlightening,” Marfisi said. “It was awesome to be able to see that side of it. I was in the plane working with the crew chiefs during a hot de-fuel and outside the window I could see a firetruck where I normally am.”

Marfisi saw firsthand the hazards present during what is normally a routine call for firefighters. He was able to see the job from another perspective and he can now pass along this knowledge to his co-workers.

“When (Airmen) get stove-piped into a career field they see that one picture of the Air Force and think this is their lot in life,” Huggins said. “I hope to see all Airmen jump out of bed and be thrilled to get to work, because a happier Airman will always be more productive in a job they love.”