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Civilian assumes leadership of 81st TRSS
Col. Maureen Smith, 81st Training Group commander, passes the guidon to Debbie Sterling who assumed command of the 81st Training Support Squadron during an assumption of leadership ceremony Aug. 9, 2012, at the Roberts Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance facility, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. (U.S. Air Force photo by Adam Bond)
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Civilian now leading 81st TRSS

Posted 8/14/2012   Updated 8/14/2012 Email story   Print story


by Marla Holbert
81st Training Support Squadron

8/14/2012 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss.  -- For the first time in the Air Education Training Command's technical training history, the 81st Training Support Squadron is now led by a civilian.

Deborah Sterling, formerly the chief of the 81st Operations and Resources flight, recently accepted the 81st Training Support Squadron guidon from Col. Maureen Smith, 81st Training Group Commander. Col. Smith also presided over the ceremony.

The change in leadership was the result of organizational restructuring that began in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, Keesler leaders had a better understanding of the impact of those cuts, identifying the 81st TRSS commander's post as one billet that had to be used to fill critical officer shortages in another squadron. Subsequently, the decision was made to transfer leadership of the 81 TRSS to a civilian director.

"The unit's transition to a civilian director recognizes the importance of all civilian contributions to ensuring the mission of the 81st Training Group is successful," Smith said during the transition last Aug. 9. "The civilian force has a rich history at this base and Mrs. Sterling has added to it, by assuming leadership of this squadron--providing the backbone to our training efforts at Keesler."

"As the military continues to make difficult decisions regarding manpower, civilians become more integral," Sterling said in an interview prior to the ceremony. "This is a huge responsibility, but also a fabulous opportunity and a step in the right direction for our civilians.

"I think it gives hope to our civilians," Sterling continued. "This is a chance for us to make a difference in a big way--we all have opportunities to contribute but now there is an official seat at the table."

Sterling began her 32-year career as a GS-2 at Keesler, while finishing her bachelor's degree at Mississippi State University. She was later hired on permanently as an instructor in the 3400 Technical Training Group. In all, she has held eight positions within the organization and was a member of the TRSS when it originally stood up.

The Training Support Squadron develops and supports the faculty and students of the 81st TRG and the Air force through faculty development courses, training system development and maintenance, student and faculty resource management, training technology insertion and curriculum development for the cyber and postal career fields.

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