Airman shares Force Shaping story

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERMANY -- Staff Sgt. Leslie Cook, 52nd Medical Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician, practices inserting an IV needle. Sergeant Cook is on a list of people who could be cross-trained into a related medical job specialty under the Air Force force shaping program. (US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Gene Taylor)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERMANY -- Staff Sgt. Leslie Cook, 52nd Medical Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician, practices inserting an IV needle. Sergeant Cook is on a list of people who could be cross-trained into a related medical job specialty under the Air Force force shaping program. (US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Gene Taylor)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERMANY -- -- On a normal work day, you will find him checking-in patients -- taking their vital signs and looking over medical histories. But that could change tomorrow for Staff Sgt. Leslie Cook, 52nd Medical Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician, whose name is on a list of candidates, who could potentially be cross-trained into another medical field job specialty.

"At this point, I have a fifty-fifty chance, due to (where I stand)," Sergeant Cook said. "So, I'm just waiting day-to-day to see what happens."

Sergeant Cook was notified he can retrain into one of two undermanned medical specialties a neurology technician, or an independent duty medical technician. Taking either job would require him to attend a 24-plus week technical school course, possibly on short notice.

When Sergeant Cook first learned he might have to cross-train, he considered leaving the Air Force, but after talking with his family, decided staying was the better choice because of the stability of Air Force life.

"The process itself has been really difficult for me," he said. "You know your family will be taken care of and you know that you're going to be taken care of."

Retraining has been around for many years and is critical to ensuring the Air Force has the right jobs filled to accomplish the mission. Though hard on our people, it is the right thing to do, said Chief Master Sgt. Vance Clarke, 52nd Fighter Wing Command Chief Master Sergeant.

"Retraining impacts all grades in our Air Force, not just our junior enlisted. Our Airmen -- all Airmen -- must be aware of where they stand in their career fields and know the vulnerabilities," the command chief said. "Many companies hand out 'pink slips,' but our Air Force wants to capitalize on the experience our people have and place them into other jobs where they can continue to make a difference. Being aware and knowing your options are very important."

Supervisors must be aware of the status of their people when it comes to retraining, the chief said. They need to ensure our Airmen know their options and are help them with difficulties any possible career change may cause. This added stress in our peoples' lives must be factored into day-to-day operations.

"Talking to our people and being aware of what career fields are being impacted is very important," he said. "We must know our people. Knowing the impacts of and who is affected by retraining is important."

Even though the thought of retraining is in the back of his mind, Sergeant Cook does his job every day-seeing patients with a caring smile and taking their vital signs, hoping that he does not get picked to cross-train.

"I like my job now. I like what I do on a daily basis. If I do get (picked), then I'll just do my best and make it through the class."

(Editor's note: Senior Airman Eydie Sakura Contributed to this article.)