From the Frontlines: Senior Airman Piara Swank

  • Published
  • By Heidi Hunt
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
When it comes to individual responsibility for mission success, one Air Force Global Strike Airman helped get items and services that an expeditionary unit needs during her recent deployment to southwest Asia.

Senior Airman Piara Swank returned Nov. 13, 2011 after spending six months deployed as a contingency contracting officer with the 380th Expeditionary Contracting Squadron construction flight.

"We were force multipliers," said Swank. "We provided support by awarding and administering contracts to fulfill commodities, services and construction requirements."

Swank worked on construction contracts such as adding fence to secure the flightline, moving the fuel station to U.S. Controlled area to ensure that only Department of Defense personnel can have access to the fuel that we are paying for, building a new communication tower for the Navy and building a new fitness sprung for those who do cross fit training. Additionally, she acted as a business advisor and liaison dealing directly with local counterparts.

Her day-to-day duties included processing passes for contractors, processing material submittal forms, updating project statuses, site visits, meeting with contractors and customers and sources for potential vendors.

Swank said while deployed she had a different responsibility from her job duties at Whiteman AFB.

"Here we have contracting officers who review and sign contracts," she said.

"There, the pace was faster and the workload was heavier," she continued. "I had to be both the administrator and contracting officer. Most of my experience dealt with purchasing supplies and services.

In addition to her workload, Swank's effort to help boost morale among servicemembers during her deployment was tailored to building friendships and networking, she said.

"I was the secretary of the First Four Council (Airman's Council) and teamed up with Force Support Squadron and the USO for our version of America's Got Talent, haunted house and a luau," she said.

"Being able to experience a different culture, meeting awesome people and learning a lot of new things were the best part of my deployment," Swank said. "It also made my day when I received a care package."

According to her supervisor, it was not uncommon for Swank to step up and hit the ground running with minimal guidance.

"She did a great job," said Capt. Dawud Shillingford, 633rd Contracting Squadron flight commander specialized contracts. "Typically, her position was filled by a seasoned staff sergeant or higher. Her counterpart had eight years of construction experience under his belt.

"What Swank lacked in experience she made up with in common sense, organizational skills, keen research of the regulations and maturity," he said. "I personally shadowed Swank for her first week and quickly realized that she left her quiet demeanor in the office when meeting or negotiating with a predominately male dominated contractor base and held her own. Swank is the number one Airman I've had the pleasure to lead and work with in my more than 21 years in the contracting career field."

While Swank said she made the most of her first deployment, she said she missed her family and friends.

Now more than ever, Swank said her deployment made her appreciate the sacrifices and work that deployed members and their families have to make.

"It also made me realize the importance of the work and training that we do at our home station," she said. "I am honored to have worked with such amazing people who truly exemplify Air Force core values."