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31st Force Support Squadron Passport Office: Small office, big impact

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Tory Cusimano
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The Passport Office at Aviano Air Base, Italy, is tucked away in an unassuming building sandwiched between the sprawling compound of the 606th Air Control Squadron and the always-packed Military Personnel Flight and Finance offices. It shares the ground floor with the Safety Office, among other agencies, and inhabits a space no larger than a tool shed. But don’t let its size fool you -- the Passport Office has a huge impact on the 31st Fighter Wing mission.

Just two people are responsible for the whole base: Staff Sgt. Andres Orozco, NCOIC of the 31st Force Support Squadron Passport Office, and Sang Ju Yi, the Passport Agent who runs the office. Orozco is a few months in to a 2-year rotation, but Yi has been at it for four years.

“I previously worked at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul,” Yi said. “I’ve enjoyed sharing the knowledge I gained there with our customers here on base.”

Sitting side-by-side, the two work in tandem each day to process tourist passports and issue birth registrations.

“Every day here is so different,” Yi said. “Maybe the most important part of my job is to research regularly so I can give customers the most up-to-date information.”

The Passport Office also handles “No-Fee” passports, diplomatic passports, and most critically, official passports. So when large groups of personnel deploy for exercises, it’s up to the Passport Office to make sure our personnel can legally travel to the country.

“It’s nerve-wracking,” Orozco said. “But it’s a great learning experience.”

In just one month the office processed 517 passports for 31st FW personnel that were preparing to go to African Lion 20, including a whopping 79 in a single day. That’s quite a few people to fit in a tool shed.

“Members would come in and we would have almost 30 people waiting to apply per day,” Orozco said. “Official passports take a little longer than tourist ones due to the amount of paperwork that has to be reviewed.”

It’s a complete 31st FW effort to support our participation in any exercise, but to be successful each unit and supporting agency has to do its job.

Without the Passport Office, our members wouldn’t even be able to get off the plane. It’s a positive pressure, Orozco says, but one that he’s always ready to be over with just the same.

“I’ll be able to sleep at night,” Orozco said with a laugh.

For now, things have returned closer to normal in the Passport Office. But regardless of how full the waiting room is, this small office always stands ready to make a big difference in the 31st Fighter Wing.

“I take pride in what I do all year long,” Yi said. “We’re here to make our base’s mission a success.”