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IPE supervisor sets standard for Airmen

an Airmen poses for a photo in supply

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Erika Harlan, 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron individual protective equipment supervisor, is responsible for supervising and training Airmen in supply who work every day to maintain inventory throughout the warehouse ensuring assets are ready for use at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Aug. 6, 2019. The material management flight, often referred to as supply, works to inventory and manage a variety of Air Force assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mariam K. Springs)

Airmen in 19th LRS inventory gas masks

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Erika Harlan, 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron individual protective equipment supervisor, organizes gas masks with fellow Airmen at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Aug. 6, 2019. Airmen in the material management flight have to inspect masks before distributing them for use. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mariam K. Springs)

two Airmen discuss information in supply

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Erika Harlan, 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron individual protective equipment supervisor, assists Senior Airman Kelsi Lennemann, 19th LRS supply journeyman, with inventory at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Aug. 6, 2019. The 19th LRS material management flight distributes a variety of equipment to Airmen including weapons, body armor, gas masks and chemical protective gear. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mariam K. Springs)

an Airmen organizes items in supply

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Erika Harlan, 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron individual protective equipment supervisor, inventories tourniquets at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Aug. 6, 2019. The supply flight maintains nearly 650 different pieces of equipment (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mariam K. Springs)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

To an average person, managing a supply warehouse of individual protective equipment worth nearly $9 million, as well as securing and deploying an armory worth $2.1 million, and supervising 14 Airmen every day would be seemingly impossible – but not for one Airman.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Erika Harlan, 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron IPE supervisor, tackles this daily challenge with positivity and a smile while maintaining nearly 650 different pieces of equipment.

“Not everyone can be on a plane,” Harlan said. “There has to be someone back here doing material management and I’m proud to be the one to do it.”

Harlan is responsible for supervising and training Airmen in the material management flight, often referred to as supply, who work every day to maintain inventory throughout the warehouse ensuring assets are ready for use.

“I try to keep them pumped about supply being our pride and joy, no one messes with it, and we take care of it,” Harlan said. “I try to let the Airmen know why what they’re doing is important, not just that they have to count something again.” 

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Isaiah Vance, 19th LRS NCO in charge of IPE, said Harlan constantly checks on Airmen’s well-being and encourages them to better themselves both on the job and outside of work.

“In today’s Air Force it’s imperative that supervisors have that balance between personal and professional relationships,” Vance said. “Harlan is the standard for having and maintaining this balance. She is a great leader and a great example for our younger Airmen to follow. We need more leaders like her.”

Vance said Harlan keeps a positive attitude around the Airmen and engages with them about their personal lives.

“My Airmen are my motivation,” Harlan said. “They always give me a new challenge every day. They’re my motivation to make sure that once they walk out the door, they’re happy.”

The supply flight is critical in making sure Airmen have the proper equipment while in training and deployed environments providing essential Combat Airlift. Harlan saw how material management affected the broad scheme of things during a deployment in Qatar.

“I’ve held bloody equipment downrange,” Harlan said. “I’ve seen armor with a bullet in it and had we not done our job properly, they wouldn’t be here today.”

Harlan said that the amount of teamwork, knowledge and communication that’s needed in material management can be seen as a shock, but supply has a huge impact on the overall mission of the Air Force.

“This is a job that saves lives,” Harlan said. “You won’t see supply, but we’re there. We affect and touch everything. This is one of the jobs that doesn’t get a lot of limelight but it’s definitely one of the bloodlines that make the Air Force’s heart pump.”