BOLLING AFB, D.C. -- The vision of a lean, maximally efficient and largely "paperless" Air Force, originally conceived in the late 1990s and incorporated in 2006 as a guiding principle of the Air Force Smart Operations 21 office, is an interesting idea for most Air Force military and civilian personnel. Everyone agrees that saving money, trees, effort and time is a good thing, but few feel they have a personal stake in the matter, or that they can actually affect the big picture in any real way.
Staff Sgt. Peter Krueger has a different view and is convinced he can make a difference. In fact, when he arrived last July as the 11th Mission Support Squadron's noncommissioned officer in charge of information management at the Pentagon Military Personnel Flight, Sergeant Krueger independently appropriated the paperless Air Force objective as his own personal mission statement.
Since then, the eight-year veteran has successfully overseen the audit and shipment of 6,200 hard-copy, active-duty military personnel records from the Pentagon to the Air Force Personnel Center, in San Antonio, Texas, while making all those records available in an electronic format. For this impressive accomplishment, as well as earning an outstanding rating in the critical January 2007 Unit Compliance Inspection, a quadrennial evaluation of all Air Force units, Sergeant Krueger was "coined, " or publicly recognized and lauded by Col. Kurt Neubauer, 11th Wing commander, at the weekly wing standup June 13.
"My situation is very unique," Sergeant Krueger said in a June 15 interview. "I am the only information manager belonging to the 11th Wing MSS in the Pentagon. They are all personnelists except me. I'm basically the computer fix-it guy, and I take care of the special projects like this paperless idea. Everything that comes along that's different from personnel stuff, I take on, so that our personnel people can take care of the customers that come into the office and need a new ID card, need to change something in DEERS, need to get their ranks changed in records, or maybe have new orders to Travis Air Force Base, in Calif., for example.
"We act as a satellite unit to support all the Air Force personnel on the Pentagon side," he continued. Our customers are high 'viz,' as you can imagine. At the Pentagon it's no joke if a general needs to have something done; he wants it done right the first time and not have to come back over and over again. He (also) doesn't want to travel 10 miles and battle the traffic jams, when he can just get out of his office, walk down the hallway and bang, there we are. That's what we are there for, to support the Air Force people at the Pentagon."
As for his progress in establishing a paperless operation in his not-so-insignificant corner of the Air Force, Sergeant Krueger said he's done just about all he can; the rest depends on the policy makers at AFPC. "If they can give me a blank policy where we don't require any more original signatures, we can pump it out right now," he said. "Once we can get a policy implemented that will accept a copy versus an original, handwritten signature, we can go completely paperless. The area where you will see it first in the Air Force is an MPF, the unit with the most paperwork piled up in their office."
Little gets done in the Air Force without the guidance and approval of its chiefs. Chief Master Sgt. William A. Babcock, the sergeant's boss and superintendent of the Pentagon MPF, was asked to comment on his information manager's performance to date. "Sergeant Krueger arrived here last summer and has been nothing less than outstanding," Chief Babcock said in an e-mail. "He has taken on a lot of different projects and worked each one through until they were finished. He is definitely high energy and an example for others to emulate."
Few Air Force members consider living and working in the continental United States to be "overseas duty"; fewer still are those who call Ramstein, Germany, their hometown, but Sergeant Krueger qualifies on both counts. His father, Klaus, was a crew chief for the SR-71 "Blackbird," the long-range, Mach 3.25 strategic reconnaissance aircraft, or "spyplane," which first entered service with the 4200th (later 9th) Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Beale AFB, Calif., in January 1966. It was at Beale, in 1974, where the one and only child of Klaus and Irmgard Krueger was born.
Eighteen months later, his father was reassigned to Ramstein AB, and retired there in 1984 after 23 years in the Air Force. His mother is a native German, so the decision to settle in Ramstein Village was easy. Sergeant Krueger is fully bilingual - German is his first languge - and says as a child he learned the finer points of English on TV's "Sesame Street."
Though his father's profession and youthful exposure to military life seemed to make an Air Force career a no-brainer, Sergeant Krueger wasn't in any hurry to enlist. After graduating from a local German high school, he enrolled at Fachhochscule II , a four-year college in nearby Kaiserslautern, where he earned a bachelor's degree in business accouting and computer operations, graduating in 1994. But four more years would pass before the sergeant, dissatisfied with life as a civilian in Ramstein, finally enlisted at the Air Force Recruiting Station at nearby Kapaun AB.
"I worked as an accountant for (Air Force) Services, but wasn't making the money I was hoping to, had a degree in my pocket but I couldn't come full circle," he recalled. "Something was missing; I wasn't challenged. My recruiter told me, 'Can't make you an officer even though you do have a bachelor's degree from a college, but it's not an accredited institute.' But I still decided to join the Air Force and become an enlisted (member), just like my dad was. When I got sent off to go to basic training, it was basically my first American experience."
Sergeant Krueger says his "overseas tour" at the Pentagon has been challenging and rewarding, but he hopes to get a new assignment after another year or so. "It helps if you're not stuck in the same location for a long period of time," he said. "In my career field as an information manager, you get to work in every sort of unit and squadron and group level that are out there. You can work in a cop shop, you can work in an intel bunker with top-secret computers if you have the appropriate clearance, so I can basically work anywhere."
Naturally, he'd like to return to Germany, preferably the Ramstein area - he was assigned to Ramstein AB from November 2000 to July 2006 - where he can help take care of his mother, who has lived alone since his father passed away in 2000. That would also be fine with Sergeant Krueger's wife, Patricia, a brokerage manager he says is "very smart," who he met about three years ago in a bowling center in her hometown of Ludwigshafen, about 45 minutes from Ramstein, while indulging his sporting passion in a German-American bowling league.
"She's been encouraging me, keeping me focused while we're away from home and my mom, in the situation she's in," Sergeant Krueger said. "She's always giving me great support; she's been awesome. She's always behind me."