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Deaf intern expands growth, service to country in AFMC security spectrum

Tina Banerjee, deaf Palace Acquire intern communicates using special video phone.

Tina Banerjee is a Palace Acquire intern in the 88th Air Base Wing Information Protection organization. Though born deaf, she has persevered and found success as a member of the Air Force civilian service. (U.S. Air Force photo / Estella Holmes)

Tina Banerjee speaks on video phone. The video phone add to her success when speaking with co-workers.

Tina Banerjee speaks on a video phone system at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Aug. 15, 2019. Bannerjee makes use of this technology to ensure her success. (U.S. Air Force photo/Estella Holmes)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --

Former Premier College intern Tina Banerjee continues to look beyond the challenges of being born deaf as she returns to Air Force Materiel Command as a Palace Acquire intern in the 88th Air Base Wing Information Protection organization.

“For the longest time, I knew I wanted to serve my country somehow. Being a part of this and what the Air Force has to offer gives many open-door opportunities,” said Banerjee.

For Banerjee, 2019 is the fifth year of performing as either a volunteer or intern in government or civilian organizations. Each year’s experiences provided growth and increased responsibility.

 “Sharing responsibility for the protection and security of the country is my greatest challenge thus far. It is different from last year as a Premier intern, since the Palace Acquire allows job rotation into different security fields to experience how each functions,” said Banerjee.

As a May 2019 graduate in criminal justice from Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York, Banerjee is familiar with positions where she must ‘step up’ and function at a high level.

“Tina is a stellar performer. She’s very energetic and a quick learner, who communicates well with the team. She’s already part of the family and very enthusiastic,” said Daniel Knox, director, 88 Air Base Wing Information Protection.

Banerjee communicates effectively through fluency in American Sign Language. As she interacts with other Airmen in her office and across the command, communication is facilitated through the use of a special video phone to aid her in  day-to-day interactions.

Classified communications are not authorized for use on some platforms, video phones included. This can be a challenge given her responsibilities as a security manager for the command. However, Banerjee is poised to break down barriers and establish pathways to ways to expand the roles of support tools such as video phones in classified work spaces.

“The video phone allows me to be more efficient. Using it, I can sign, read lips and also gain valuable information through facial expression. It’s an asset, like any other employed by any other team member,” said Banerjee.

Leadership from the Special Access Central Office of Strategic Air Force recently acknowledged Banerjee’s potential as a resource in the development of protocols for operating various platforms with classified information.

By logging her work experiences and providing input to Air Force personnel teams, she is potentially helping others with hearing loss or other mental or physical issues who might be considering an Air Force career.

“We are excited to see where Tina’s research and efforts will take us. We can’t afford to keep unnecessary limits in place that could prevent such smart, dedicated people from serving, especially with the technology that exists in today’s world,” said Knox.

The Palace Acquire intern is also encouraged to network with other Airmen across the country through workshops and leadership training. In addition, online training is often used to fulfill the requirements of the program and helps her to learn how to be a leader in the workplace.

Banerjee the intern has much to learn about her job and new work environment. However, she also sees her role as a teacher and embraces any and all opportunities to educate others with whom she comes in contact.

“Many know little sign language or nothing about deaf culture,” said Banerjee. Growing up was not easy for me with the barriers of a person with hearing loss.”

As she continues to break down barriers for hard of hearing individuals in the workplace, Banerjee is poised to make a difference for her team as well as the Air Force missions of today and the future.

 “As I get into my role, I continue to learn more about the Air Force mission and how I can help further that mission,” said Banerjee.

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