Duty on the home front: youngest enlisted aide serves with pride.
The 22-year-old Airman is an aide to Maj. Gen. Frank Klotz, 20th Air Force commander at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. There are 92 enlisted aides in the Air Force and Airman Bensch is the youngest and lowest ranking. She's also one of the shining stars.
In 2002, Airman Bensch was a chef in the missile field and took pride in being a vital piece of the intercontinental ballistic missile world. When the 20th Air Force commander made a surprise visit to the missile alert facility, he was impressed with her skills and professionalism.
"It was pretty short notice," she said. "I managed to put together a buffet lunch and sort of dress up the place a bit. Not long after, the general's aide called me and asked me if I had ever considered the enlisted aide career field. I didn't even know it existed."
To prepare Airman Bensch for her role as an aide, the Air Force sent her to a two-week familiarization course and a host of culinary programs. Most of what she's learned, however, has been through the network of aides who keep each other up to date on the latest and greatest in high-level entertaining.
"We are a small career field, so we stay in touch," she said. "We're constantly calling each other for advice and assistance. I know who I can count on for whatever need we may have, and we understand the difficulties in our job."
Enlisted aides aren't "cooks," "maids" or "butlers." They manage household affairs and other tasks.
"I do everything the general can't do because of his duties," she said. "I'm kind of a household manager charged with preparing for special events. The general's wife takes care of the household; I'm there to take care of the 'public' part of the house--the part that involves the business of being a general."
That "public" part has Airman Bensch interacting with a list of generals, senators and governors that read like a Who's Who list: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard B. Myers, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker. Recently, she dined at the 20th Air Force dining out head table with Air Force Space Command commander Gen. Lance Lord.
However, Airman Bensch doesn't let her job go to her head. She knows she is an integral part of the Air Force team.
"It's not a job for everyone; I don't want to sound negative," said Airman Bensch, who pins on staff sergeant soon. "It's a hard job, and I'd recommend it to anyone who has the will to do it. Especially if they have culinary ambitions."
Career Field Facts
Duties: Enlisted aide duties vary according to the general officer each works for. Primary duties for Senior Airman Sarah Bensch, enlisted aide for the 20th Air Force commander at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., include taking care of the public areas of the general's home, preparing meals for distinguished visitors and special events, some yard work and occasional odd jobs.
Civilian Application: Since an enlisted aide can perform many duties, the civilian applications are broad. Airman Bensch could pursue culinary arts as a career. Other applications include office management, hotel management and concierge service, and a wide variety of service industry occupations.
Senior Airman Sarah Bensch
Enlisted aide to the 20th Air Force commander, F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.
Years Air Force: Five
Hometown: Lynnwood, Wash.
Reason for joining: "I've always liked to travel and see new things.
Assignments: F.E. Warren, first as a services cook at missile alert facilities and then as an enlisted aide.
Coming up: Unknown. An enlisted aide's time ends when the general officer they work for moves on. If selected, they can follow the general, or they can apply to work for another officer, or they can return to their old career field. Airman Bensch would like to remain an enlisted aide.
Best thing about the job: "I'm a part of a team of people who help the general do his job."
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|Date:||Dec 1, 2004|
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