LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
They are unassuming, hardworking and loyal. They do not wear an Air Force uniform but they are vital to the Lackland AFB mission.
Kelly Thielen and Rosanne O'Toole are the administrative assistants of the 37th Training Wing commander and vice commander, respectively.
"I am very proud of the way Kelly and Rosanne work together as a team and handle a host of multiple, complex challenges together. I rely extensively on them to manage the tempo in the office," said Brig. Gen. Len Patrick, 37th Training Wing Commander. "I want to do everything and see everyone ... and they get me to the right place at the right time.
"Also, with over 70 tenant organizations, and multiple wings on Lackland, they've forged great relationships with our mission partners, making Lackland truly a great place to work, live, worship and recreate," said the general.
Ms. O'Toole, who has held her position at headquarters since 2001, has worked for four vice commanders and six commanders. Ms. Thielen arrived at Lackland five years ago, and is now under the direction of her fifth boss, General Patrick.
"It's just like you are interviewing for a new job every year or two because everything changes," said Ms. O'Toole.
Both ladies said it takes them at least a couple of months to really get to know their bosses and adapt to their leadership styles, especially when the new commanders are out and about getting familiarized with the base.
The administrative assistants are responsible for scheduling meetings, coordinating calendars, gathering background material and biographies, making travel arrangements, and planning regular monthly meetings, special events and spouse briefings.
"The biggest challenge on a daily basis is trying to squeeze 12 hours of meetings into a regular work day," said Ms. Thielen.
The day this reporter interviewed the two administrative assistants, the commander and vice commander each had 10 scheduled meetings. It was during one of those meetings, while the bosses were gone, that the ladies peeled away from their desks long enough to answer a few questions.
The interview session was interrupted every couple of minutes with phone calls and each time one of the ladies raced back to her desk to greet the caller. They were clearly taking turns with this task but never verbally communicated their plan.
The ladies are so in sync that they tend to finish each other's sentences and laugh at the same things while dealing with the hectic workload.
"You have to have a sense of humor," said Ms. O'Toole.
"Or you die," chimed in Ms. Thielen with a chuckle and big smile.
The administrative assistants, whose desks are literally side by side, have always gotten along beautifully and are the best of friends despite an age gap.
"I'm her mother's age which shows either that I have never grown up or that she is extremely mature," Ms. O'Toole said lightheartedly.
Both ladies clearly enjoy their jobs and are proud to be a part of Team Lackland.
"It's just amazing and overwhelming how important this base is to the Air Force," said Ms. O'Toole, a native of Indiana. "If my family could see where I work they would be amazed."
"My husband graduated from basic military training here and he went through (technical) training here," said Ms. Thielen. "Sometimes I look out at the parade field and think, 'Wow, Dave marched across that field 23 years ago.'"
The ladies are both touched by the families of graduates they meet who often seek assistance getting to various locations on the base. And they enjoy hearing "the old stories" retired commanders and veterans share when they return to Lackland for a visit.
One of the biggest perks for the assistants has been a private tour of Air Force One back in the fall when President George Bush made a trip to San Antonio.
For the 37th TRW command staff, the professionalism, perfectionism and calming nature of these two women are a blessing.
"We simply cannot perform the mission without our administrative professionals. Every day, they perform miracles to make sure we end up at the right places at the right time to perform the right mission," Col. Eric Wilbur, 37th TRW vice commander, said. "They provide a critical communication link between us and a multitude of people from general officers at the headquarters to our Airmen on the installation.
"I like to say I put my life into their capable hands every day and fully trust they will direct my path appropriately," said the vice commander.
Administrative Professionals Week runs April 20 through 26. Administrative Professionals Day is April 23.
"We shouldn't just celebrate their contribution to our mission once a year but ever day as they serve so selflessly," Col. Wilbur said.
April 23 is also Team Lackland's Fiesta Military Parade so the ladies are not expecting any special treatment that day.
"We don't need flowers or anything. Just being acknowledged and appreciated is great," said Ms. O'Toole.
"They treat us really well," said Ms. Thielen with a laugh.
And that is all they are saying because it's back to work for these hard working civilians.