NATO International Civilians at E-3A Component exemplify diversity and professionalism
The E-3A Component is an integrated, multinational, rapidly deployable Alliance asset providing airborne surveillance, command, control and communication capabilities. These are of particular significance to its key role in Council-approved operations such as Operation Afghan Assist (OAA) in support of the International Security Assistance Force. The Component's task spectrum also encompasses flexible, efficient support for NATO exercises and for the safeguarding of Summits and major international public events.
The Component's high reputation for successful mission accomplishment stems from long-standing and very effective cooperation between military and civilian personnel from 17 nations working as a unique operational team to meet these requirements in the interests of the Alliance.
The local civilian staff association (CSA) represents more than 600 NATO International Civilians employed in a very wide range of occupational fields: financial, legal, medical, safety, administrative, information technology, technical, firefighting and many others.
"With a workforce of this size and diversity, and with deployment rotations frequently taking place, the CSA Committee very often has a tough time keeping up with all the key issues," remarks the CSA Chairman, Mr. Guy Vandebeek. "We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated, hardworking CSA Staff Committee."
A notable aspect of working life at the Component is that many staff members at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen and on deployment have a constantly changing pattern of duty hours in an operational flying environment that is very different from that of office-bound NICs at static headquarters or elsewhere. Key tasks: servicing and maintaining large-body aircraft equipped with complex avionics and other mission-essential systems, and ensuring short notice, immediate response to critical technical issues.
These duties include heavy lifting, crawling into very confined spaces such as aircraft fuel tanks, working at heights of up to 12 meters from elevated platforms and scaffolds, safely handling aircraft fuel, hazardous materials and industrial processes, while also coping with extreme weather conditions of all kinds.
"All of this requires not only good physical fitness but also the flexibility and willingness to get the job done, whatever and wherever it may be," says CSA Vice Chairman, Mr. Ben Pereira.
Good morale, team spirit and NICs' willingness to volunteer for extended time on deployment are key factors for ensuring mission fulfilment. The E-3A Component's operational support of ISAF from an air base within Afghanistan, where deployed Component personnel have a mandatory working week of up to 84 hours, has already entered its fourth year and is an excellent example of a context in which all these aspects are of great significance.
Speaking at the local CSA's New Year Reception in January this year, the Component Commander, Maj. Gen. Andrew M. Mueller, acknowledged this.
"Whenever I see a new initiative at NATO level, I tell the people working on it that they can take the E-3A Component as a model of successful multi-national cooperation," he said. "We are smart defense in action. And I make sure to tell them this could not be achieved without the experience, commitment and continuity provided by our NATO civilian staff."