News: Ohio reservists bring camaraderie, skills to deployment
Story by 1st Lt. Holli Nelson
UNDISCLOSED LOCATION - Like a well-oiled machine, each Airman knew their part. Hands were moving throughout the cockpit and back of a C-130 Hercules – flipping switches, pressing buttons, running checklists, loading cargo and communicating without having to speak many words.
This was a true team – an aircrew team unique to the U.S. Air Force Reserve.
Airmen from the 910th Airlift Wing, Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, are flying the missions of the C-130 Hercules here and bring their wealth of knowledge, both from the civilian and military side, and camaraderie to the fight.
“When you work with the same six people in the close quarters of the airplane you get to know each other well and you learn to look out for each other,” said Capt. Ron Barr, 737th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron pilot. “That is a unique facet of the Reserve component that some active duty units might not experience.”
Many times, these Airmen are flying with the same crews for their entire careers, gaining valuable training, experience, and most importantly, a solid relationship within the realms of their jobs.
For Master Sgt. Vince Bartlomain, his long career as a flight engineer helps to set him apart and allows him to be the “eyes on” for the other crew members while flying combat missions.
“We look after each other. We’re unique because I can be scanning for threats while my pilots are flying and when I’m working or the navigator is working, they’re doing the same thing for us,” said the Youngstown, Ohio, native who has served in his position for 24 years.
The crew on this particular day was flying a combat-support mission to offload cargo and personnel in multiple locations around the area of responsibility, which is one of the main missions for the C-130 here.
While these aircrew members are integrated with the active duty throughout all aspects of training and during deployments, the Reserve team brings one very important piece to the table, as Capt. Steven Stroney describes.
“That piece is long-term experience built upon by individual historical examples,” said the 737th EAS aircraft commander. “It is one thing to say that we are all trained the same, but it is another to quantify the knowledge that comes with someone who has deployed multiple times spanning a 20-plus year window.”
Some traditional aircrew reservists can deploy more than ten times in their short 20 to 30 year careers.
Not only does their close-knit working relationship help them in the fight today, each reservist can bring additional skills they have received from their civilian jobs with them as well. From full-time student to commercial pilot, this crew had a wealth of experience that their other Air Force counterparts might not have.
“I would encourage anyone interested in the military to seek a position in the reserves because it provides a great balance of military skills with civilian ones,” said Stroney who serves as an Air Reserve technician at home. “Often enough, the two jobs don’t conflict as much as they strengthen each other.”
For this tight-knit crew from Ohio, the best part about their jobs, as they all said in one way or another, was flying and feeling like contributors to Operation Enduring Freedom here.
“I have the best job in the world,” said Barr, a Urbana, Ohio native and commercial pilot outside the Air Force
First Lt. Shannon Baker, C-130 navigator with the 737th EAS, echoed Barr’s comments, “I love getting to travel and see new places and experience new things. It's always an adventure and I love the challenges that come with the job. Most days I can't believe I get paid to do what I do because it's so much fun!”