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One Airman’s Life of Service – in and out of uniform

Man wearing mask checking inventory on shelves Mr. Michael Ende, Armed Forces Medical Examiner System inventory manager, checks inventory of supplies in the Forensic Toxicology Laboratory at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, July 8, 2020. Ende serves as a civilian contractor with AFMES maintaining the inventory of all laboratory and chemical supplies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nicole Leidholm)

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Service members can face a myriad of challenges, but what happens when the service member is also the civilian?

Michael Ende splits his time as the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System inventory manager at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, and as a technical sergeant with the 512th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron as a flying crew chief.

“I have worked in the AFMES building since 2011, working as a construction worker, janitor and shipping and receiving clerk,” said Ende. “For the past five years, I have worked in the forensic toxicology division as an inventory manager maintaining the inventory for all the laboratory supplies and chemicals within the division.”

Ende’s tasks also include writing and completing orders for basic laboratory supplies, chemicals and all small equipment needed for the laboratory as well as assisting with the $4.5 million budget for contracts and supplies for the division.

Ende said his military journey started more than a decade ago.

“I joined the military in 1996 in the U.S. Army Reserves as a quartermaster officer for nine years,” said Ende. “I served as a petroleum platoon leader, a warehouse platoon leader, an executive officer and company commander till 2003.”

Following his time in the Army Reserve, Ende worked various retail jobs before moving to Delaware in 2010.

Soldier checking flight equipment
Tech. Sgt. Michael Ende, 512th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flying crew chief, conducts a pre-flight inspection of a C-5M Super Galaxy’s landing gear at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, July 12, 2020. As a flying crew chief, Ende supports moving supplies, equipment and personnel all around the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Zachary Cacicia)

“I took a temporary construction job as a construction worker which just happened to be on the new AFMES building,” said Ende. “Once the building was near completion I was hired on by a janitorial service company to clean the new AFMES building.”

Ende joined the Air Force Reserves in 2011 for technical training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. There he had to adjust from being a first lieutenant to being an airman first class. Upon completion, Ende was assigned to the 512th AW and also hired by AFMES in the logistics department.

“I missed the military, but didn’t want to go in the Army again,” said Ende. “My younger brother had been in the Air Force for 15 years at this point and was a crew chief for the 436th [Airlift Wing] so I knew what I was getting myself into.”

As a flying crew chief with the 512th AMXS, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ende works on the flightline launching C-5M Super Galaxies and performing general maintenance and inspections to keep the 500,000 pound aircraft flying.

“We support moving supplies, equipment and personnel all around the world,” said Ende. “I have personally been on 21 missions which has taken me all over the United States and to 14 countries.”

Service members who not only serve their country but also have full time jobs in the civilian sector are still required to maintain the same level of training and skill proficiency as their active duty counterparts.

“I work really hard to ensure I give 100 percent at both jobs because I don’t want one job to suffer because of the other,” said Ende. “The Air Force can take me away from my job at AFMES for about three to seven days at a time.”

Due to this challenge, Ende says he plans ahead to close any open taskers and prevent more work for others. He added, it takes communication and dedication to be excellent in both jobs.

“I know he has never missed any deadlines and always keeps abreast of any changes regarding his duties with the 512th,” said April Higgins, AFMES SNA/PAE Contractor program manager. “The entire team supports Mr. Ende with his responsibilities, whether it is having someone cover his duties if he is on orders or if it is me communicating to the Contracting Officer Representative and Division Chief of Toxicology his status regarding his responsibilities, we support him 100 percent.”

Higgins, said Ende does a great job balancing his responsibilities with AFMES as well as the 512th AW.

“Mr. Ende is a true professional and I am honored to have him on our team,” said Higgins. “He embodies the Air Force core values and we are fortunate to have him as a part of the AFMES team while he is serving his country in the Reserves.”

Higgins said she enjoys having the added diversity on the team.

“Mr. Ende’s perspective is different than that of someone who has never served in the military,” she said. “He can tie the AFMES mission together with the mission of the Armed Forces, specifically the Air Force. It is important to see those links and how his job as a contractor and a Reservist affect the Armed Forces as a whole.”

Ende said he wouldn’t change a thing about his dual life.

“I enjoy having jobs in both worlds – the civilian sector and the military sector,” said Ende. “Where in the Air Force can you in one week be on a counter narcotics mission, the next a Presidential support mission, then picking up soldiers and their equipment in Iraq to come home to their families and loved ones all while supporting a civilian job back home. I can’t think of anything better than supporting both roles.”

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