Thank a TCN Escort Today

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Paul Nelson
  • 92 Aerospace Medicine Squadron Commander
When you deploy to the AOR, you'll see many civilian contractors on base supporting our wartime mission. Some of those contractors are Americans, others are from the host country, and many are TCN's, or "Third Country Nationals," civilians from other countries hired by contractors to take care of our air base. Accompanying those TCN's are a group of dedicated American Airmen with line of sight supervision as they carry out the big and little tasks that would normally fall to Americans.

I realize "we're here to watch you work" has never been a particularly motivating battle cry. I know also that nobody has an AFSC that says "TCN escort," and I doubt anybody joined the Air Force thinking "Gee, that TCN duty looks pretty cool....I can't wait to write home about that deployment." Here are three reasons why TCN escort duty may be the most underrated job in the AOR, and a position where we really owe our best and brightest Airmen.

Three reasons why:
Reason 1: TCN escorts are force multipliers. Let's face it, there is just too much work in the AOR for active duty Airmen to do every job. TCN contractors provide a critical part of our warfighting capability because they free up Airmen to do their primary combat or combat support jobs. Because one Airman can supervise many TCN contractors, they become critical force multipliers. I'm not against manual labor, but face it: without TCN contractors, we'd all be peeling potatoes, digging ditches and cleaning a lot more toilets.
Reason 2: TCN escorts are the front line Eagle Eyes (and ears) of air base defense. While contractors are a great asset (see reason one above) they can also quickly become the soft underbelly of our defense. Bad guys looking to attack a base and kill Americans will use civilians to do us harm. Therefore, constantly vigilant TCN escorts who maintain situational awareness prevent air base attacks and save lives. (One of the reasons I've always come home safely from deployments is that TCN's had my back while I was downrange. I try to remind them of this when I see them.)

Reason 3: TCN escorts can win hearts and minds. Airmen escorts may be the only Americans our contractor employees see on a daily basis. By treating our TCN employees with respect while maintaining vigilance and situational awareness, our Airmen shape the message that civilians carry back to their family and friends about what is good and decent about Americans. In the end, this may be more important than any bullet or bomb we have in winning the war on terror.

Finally, one favor to ask of all Airmen: our TCN escorts are a critical part of our war-winning strategy. Find a TCN escort who's coming back or deploying this month, thank them for their service, and make sure they understand how important their job is to your mission and to Team Fairchild.