By Tech. Sgt. Michael Voss , 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 03, 2009
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --
In February 2009, an Air Force Print News article quoted Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley as saying, "I am proud to report that the Total Force team of regular, Reserve, Guard and civilians - along with our Joint partners - continues to provide world-class air, space and cyber capabilities for our combatant commanders."
At Ramstein, that Total Force package is represented well by the 38th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.
The 38th EAS mission is different from other units here because the unit is faced with almost constant personnel turnover, as most of their personnel are traditional reservists serving no longer than six months at a time.
The 199 servicemembers in the unit, from the commander to the lowest ranking Airmen, are from the Air National Guard or the Air Force Reserves.
Often, every two weeks a large number of the 199 squadron members change out with other Guard or Reserve units and return to their home stations, places like Youngstown, Pa., Colorado Spring, Colo., or Niagara Falls, NY and many others.
Formally known as the Delta Squadron, the 38th EAS has one of the busiest missions in U. S. Air Forces in Europe. With a unique set-up and large area of responsibility falling tactically under the control of two numbered Air Forces--the 3rd and 17th-- and USAFE, the squadron supports a large area from Europe to Africa, and even Southwest Asia.
Currently, the men and women of the 38th EAS are busy supporting missions for the 37th Airlift Squadron while they train on the new C-130J aircraft.
"When I joined the reserves in 1986, it was understood 12 weekends and two weeks a year, you know, the so-called weekend warriors," said Senior Master Sgt. David Leone, 38th EAS first sergeant. "Gone are those days. Since the Gulf War, it's all about the Total Force now, so we come in fully trained and ready to go when the active force needs us."
Today the guard and reserves are trained and equipped to mirror their active duty counterparts, most have the same values of duty and family, but in addition, they also have to take into consideration their civilian careers as well.
"We have the same concerns as active servicemembers when they deploy, whether the spouse and kids can make that same shift, but in addition, we have to be aware that we are putting our civilian employers at loss of an employee for sometimes up to four months," Lt. Col. Richard Richard, 38th EAS commander said.
"Today being in the reserves is like balancing a three-legged-stool," said Sergeant Leone, who is a tax auditor for the state of New York when not activated. "We are constantly trying to stabilize the three legs, not only our family life and military career, but our civilian employer as well."
But balance the three-legged-stool 38th EAS servicemembers do well, thus far this year alone the squadron supported the Air Force's Joint Enterprise efforts by providing combat theater airlift, airdrop, NVG assault, adverse weather aerial delivery systems and joint precision air drop system support.
This year the squadron has recorded a total of 798 sorties, carrying 6,400 passengers and 2,061 tons of cargo supporting combatant commanders across the world.
"We have right now between 10 and 15 Guard and Reserve units represented and many of those personnel will change out every two weeks," said Lt. Col. Sam Bellia, 38th EAS director of operations.
When not filling the 38th EAS ops director role, Colonel Bellia commands his own reserve squadron, the 328th Air Flying Squadron from the 914th Airlift Wing stationed at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, Niagara Falls, NY.
Also balancing that three-legged-stool Colonel Bellia also has a civilian job as an airline pilot for United Airlines.
"When our personnel leave they swap-out everything from airplanes and crews to equipment with the incoming units that are here filling their Air Expeditionary Force rotation," he said.
Supporting the United States Africa Command on a weekly basis the squadron flies missions carrying support equipment and troops in and out of Africa.
"Not all our personnel are here even 120 days, many are here for two weeks and headed back home to the guard units," explained the 38th EAS commander.
In fact the squadron's inprocessing checklist has steps for an Airman to arrive on Monday, get set up and fly out on a mission as early as the same Friday.
To achieve this feat, the unit relies on the in-place servicemembers to make initial contact with the replacements four to six weeks prior to their arrival.
"We could have a crew arrived here for an 11-day activation," said Colonel Richard. "But, we handle our day to day mission very well."
According to the commander, who is deployed himself from Little Rock, Ark., serving a four-month tour, "The same 11-day crew, would come in, go on crew rest, fly their mission, come back to Ramstein and immediately get ready to fly to their home base."
This type of manning creates some operational hurdles from feeding and housing, to moving personnel around when they are deployed here, but the 38th EAS, while unique is not alone.
In fact, according to an Economic Impact Statement, the Kaiserslautern Military Community has a total of 779 Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard members helping to keep the Air Force and Department of Defense mission ready.
There's no doubt a mission of this kind is taxing, but the reserve and guard members who do this day-in and day-out at Ramstein and across the globe are committed to the fight.
"It is a bit of a shift, reserve duty to active deployments, but we are all Airman we're here to support the mission and we can handle it," said Sergeant Leone.
Each day the 38th EAS shows how committed they are supporting the active duty combatant commanders in their own way, by volunteering for the deployment here. Each servicemember truly embodies the picture of today's Air Force--Active duty, Guard and Reserve working together to form the Air Force Total Force package.