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Essential employees: civilians who serve

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

When people think of the military, they may envision people in camouflage uniforms; but across more than 600 occupations and professions, there are over 150,000 civilian employees in the Air Force.

“We're here to support the military and make sure we're able to complete the overall, worldwide mission,” said Terri Gonzalez, 81st Training Wing media relations chief. “When service members are deployed, we stay behind and keep operations running.”

Civilians have the capability to support the mission of an organization for longer periods of time in comparison to the timeframe of some service members that may stay at a single base by offering continuity on the base to incoming military members and education in the field they work.

“I have been in this position for 18 years and have seen so many military members come and go,” said Celeste Schmitt, 81st Training Wing Staff Agencies unit program coordinator. “Between civilians and military members, everyone has different perspectives and ways of doing things. We all offer our own experiences to improve processes for the workplace.”

Keesler Air Force Base relies on the inspired thinking, varied education and life experiences of every Airman to foster innovation, balance and versatility in the mission, whether they wear the uniform or not.

“Civilian employees within the Department of Defense play a critical role in the mission to deter war and protect the security of our nation,” said Anita Blair, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Civilian Personnel Policy. “A well-managed civilian workforce is indispensable to accomplishing the DoD’s mission and goals.”