Guard, Reserve play vital roles in desert mission

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nicole Bickford
  • 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Guard and Reserve troops at Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, are a vital part of the total force supporting the Operation Southern Watch mission of enforcing U.N. sanctions on Iraq and monitoring the southern no-fly zone.

Not only are Air Reserve Component forces providing essential experience, manning and equipment, they are also responsible for helping alleviate stress on active-duty force deployment taskings.

"The participation of ARC personnel in OSW helps to ensure active-duty personnel are not deployed for longer periods of time," said Col. Ron Brooks, ARC liaison at Joint Task Force Southwest Asia. "For every ARC person over here, that is one less active-duty person that has to be here."

Currently, ARC forces represent 17 percent of the OSW force.

"The current policy of both the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Component is to rotate forces every 15 days," said Brooks. "This doesn't mean that all forces rotate every 15 days."

Many mobilized ARC troops are deployed for upward of 90 days, such as those in critical career fields like security forces.

While the entire active-duty Air Force is about 350,000 people, ARC forces provide another 175,000 people.

"ARC personnel maintain their roles in the military while balancing their civilian careers as doctors, nurses, lawyers, school teachers, police officers, firefighters, information technology personnel and much more," said Brooks.

Essentially, Guard and Reserve airmen not only bring their military experience to OSW, but also the refined skills obtained in the civilian sector -- skills that carry over into military life.

Tech Sgt. Shawn O'Donnell, noncommissioned officer in charge of the 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing's financial management office, works as a bank examiner in his civilian job.

"Back home, I am responsible for analyzing financial documents, making sure they comply with federal regulations," said O'Donnell. "Here, we have been creating similar documents as those that I am responsible for reviewing in my civilian job. So instead of using the documents here, I am producing them for Air Force leadership to review."

Recently, the Air Force began recognizing civilian employers for the level of support they have given to the U.S. military and ARC forces by presenting them with letters of appreciation. Employers also receive "E" pins, a lapel pin representing the employer-Air Force partnership in defense of the nation.

The United Parcel Service, the first company to be presented with the pin, has about 500 employees currently serving on active duty. UPS has continued to provide benefits to those employees while serving in the military.

Two UPS employees are currently supporting the OSW mission here. Maj. Charlie Holden is an F-16 pilot, and Staff Sgt. Edwin Hicks is a weapons technician. Both are deployed here from the Arkansas Air National Guard's 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith. Holden said they have been impressed by the level of support their civilian employer has given not only to its employees but to the overall efforts of the nation's Guard and Reserve forces.

Even though ARC forces are tasked with a dual role of maintaining their Air Force career and civilian jobs, most are still proud to serve the U.S. military supporting OSW.

"Being mobilized and deployed is challenging," said O'Donnell, who has been on temporary military duty more than 200 days this year. "But my family and I take great pride knowing our sacrifices are for an honorable and just cause."