SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Two civilian contracting specialists with the 380th Expeditionary Contracting Squadron volunteered to deploy here, and gave two active duty personnel the opportunity to remain home with their families during the holidays.
John Seacrist and Timothy Lohn both joined the Air Force as part of the Jump Start Program, which recruits recent college graduates for federal civilian employment.
Seacrist, who is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University and the University of Akron School of Law, spoke about the sacrifices he's seen military members make during his deployment.
"Our roommate just had a baby over the holidays and he watched the birth through a video teleconference," said Seacrist.
"It's important for us to come here and save active duty members from having to deploy, especially around the holidays."
It is not uncommon for contracting personnel to have deployed five or six times in the last 10 years, said Seacrist.
"Since 2001, uniformed Air Force contracting personnel have been subject to a constant deployment cycle that has stressed the career field to critically-manned levels," said Maj. Daniel Stupinski, 380 ECONS commander.
"When civilians like Tim and John raise their hands to fill these roles, it helps both the morale and long-term retention of contracting officers," he said.
Lohn, who graduated from Miami University, said they will also benefit from the deployment because of the opportunity to serve as supervisors and operate outside of their normal contracting duties.
"We're deployed from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, which is mainly staffed by civilian employees," said Lohn. "Most major weapons systems are purchased there so we have the opportunity to expand our careers."
Neither Seacrist nor Lohn had experience working base contracting, only the procurement of C-130s, C-5s and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.
"What we're doing here is different from the systems world because we see the immediate impact of our contracts, including the construction of a new medical clinic and a laundry facility," said Lohn.
According to Lohn, each Jump Start class has 50 employees and each participant is eligible to volunteer for one deployment after acquiring two years of experience. He was a part of the second class to go through the program.
As part of the deployment application process, the employees are told they can be sent to various locations throughout Southwest Asia.
Lohn volunteered for Afghanistan, but one month prior, he was informed he would be assigned to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing.
Through the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce, Seacrist and Lohn will have other opportunities to deploy, and both said they gladly would.