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The unique challenge of working in Norway

Air Force Tech Sgt. Leon Charles, 426th Air Base Squadron NCO in charge of administration, demonstrates his work as a personnel specialist, January 31, 2020, at Jatta Military Compound, Stavanger, Norway. Like all members of the 426th, Tech Sgt. Charles holds multiple positions in the unit's manning in order to keep unit functions running smoothly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Aaron Thomasson)

Air Force Tech Sgt. Leon Charles, 426th Air Base Squadron NCO in charge of administration, demonstrates his work as a personnel specialist, January 31, 2020, at Jatta Military Compound, Stavanger, Norway. Like all members of the 426th, Tech Sgt. Charles holds multiple positions in the unit's manning in order to keep unit functions running smoothly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Aaron Thomasson)

JÅTTÅ MILITARY COMPOUND, NORWAY --

The 426th Air Base Squadron is a small unit and so Airmen and civilians who work there have to wear many hats. One of those Airmen is Tech. Sgt. Leon Charles, NCOIC of the administration flight. Charles has lived in Norway for a little over a year and works directly for the commander of the 426th. As the only personnel specialist in the unit, his day-to-day tasks keep him busy with personnel actions, admin tasks, and his many other duties.

“I’m the NCOIC of the administration flight,” said Charles. “I’m the passport agent for the unit, the only DoD passport agent in Scandinavia, (and) I’m the postal officer so I work closely with the post office here. I also take care of the DEERS system and I’m the site security manager here, plus the government purchase card holder as well. And then there are my regular military personnel flight functions and my work as the unit training representative. So there are quite a few different things, different avenues of work I do every day.”

Charles says that the work at the 426th is very different from the kind of work he did at larger units. In addition to his other work, he finds himself working very closely with the postal process at Stavanger, ensuring that all DoD personnel working on the base are able to receive their mail in a timely manner. He also makes time in his day for his duties as a supervisor and mentor.

“Of course, being that I supervise three NCOs, three Staff Sergeants, making sure that they’re taken care of is another big day to day thing,” he added.

Charles also works closely with the 426th’s School Liaison Officer, who is responsible for newcomer orientation.

“I work with the School Liaison Officer, Ms. Madsen. She manages orienting the newcomers, especially if they have school age children. What I do is more the formal military process, assigning sponsors, making sure that the sponsor has the required training, giving the necessary information of what to do before you get here, what to do after you get here. It’s all about making sure that their transition is smooth.”

The unique challenges of working on a small overseas base arise every day, but Charles finds that they encourage new and innovative solutions to problems.

“We don’t have that many facilities, but we make the most of what we have. It’s very rewarding to be able to work with not only fellow Americans but people from other nationalities and other agencies as well. So that’s the good part of it, being able to intermingle with other cultures and see what they bring to the table.”

Overall, Charles is excited to be a part of the 426th Air Base Squadron and is enjoying his time stationed in Norway.

 “I love it here. I think it’s a privilege that I have the opportunity to work in Stavanger. It’s been a good year so far and I’m looking forward to the future.”