In Israel, the term “Reservists” is pretty common among men aged 21-45. The atmosphere that surrounds the world of a Reservist is deeply embedded in Israeli culture. This is what came to my mind when planning my visit to the 700th Airlift Squadron a USAF Reserve Squadron.
I was definitely surprised to find out that “Reservists” who serve in the U.S. Air Force are a far cry from what I had in mind, far from anything I had ever experienced as a Reservist myself. I was privileged to be the guest of the 700th Airlift Squadron, part of the 94th Airlift Wing based at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, just outside of Atlanta.
These “Reservists” are more aptly known within the U.S. Air Force as “Air Reserve Technicians” and are, for the most part, full-time Airmen.
Today, as is with other Reserve units, a pilot candidate will interview with a specific Air Force Reserve unit with the only major criteria being a college degree. Once selected at the unit level, they will meet an Air Force Reserve Command board for final selection. This includes flight physicals, background investigations, etc. Once they are officially selected, they'll begin Officer Training School and have a date set to begin pilot training.
The pilot training path isn't specific to the 700th Airlift Squadron or Dobbins Air Reserve Base; it's an Air Force and Reserve requirement. The age limit is to begin pilot training by age 29. The typical timeline is about a two year track until a pilot is mission ready in their primary MWS (major weapon system). Pilot training track is three parts; UPT, or undergraduate pilot training flying the T-6A Texan II, SUPT, specialized undergraduate pilot training flying a Beech T-1 multi-engine aircraft, and finally, C-130 training at Little Rock AFB. Each stage of training is about eight months.
Most of Dobbins full-time personnel are Atlanta-area residents, so the base focuses a good deal of its recruiting efforts on the local population. As such, many Reservists are quite familiar with the area and they tend to have longer service time in the 94th AW in order to maintain their local residence, something which can make a military life that may get a bit hectic at times, a bit easier for the duration of their military career.
A couple of weeks ago I took part in a mission with the Airmen of the 700th Airlift Squadron. These airmen of the 700th range in age from Airmen just beginning their service following high school all the way to 30 year + veterans that have seen combat operations in all parts of the globe. All these airmen are part of the Air Force Reserve Command.
We follow just a regular day’s work at the squadron, we brief, the crew members discuss the particulars regarding the flight as well as the potential safety measures required for having a photographer aboard.
The mission I was joining features a sortie which includes, navigating through the range in Northern Georgia’s mountains (also known as TORE) and dropping two large size pallets representing the payload meant for the ground forces, all the while staying fast and low and evading potential threats.
The flight is led by Maj. Michael Terrell, the Aircraft commander, Terrell was homegrown by the 700th and is held in high regard by Lt. Col. Tom Moffatt, the 700th’s Director of Operations and a Senior Navigator. Sitting beside him on our mission is 1st Lt. Michael Farinas, the co-pilot. Lt. Farinas, just like Terrell, is homegrown. Navigating our flight is 1st. Lt. Ainsley Burrell. Standing at over 6 feet tall she seems relatively comfortable in the C-130’s navigator station and makes the most of the room allocated to her.
All of these people mentioned are employed very much like any other civil servant, but these civil servants, instead of pushing paper behind a desk, they go zipping around in their C-130 Hercules at low level around the world and do similar high velocity operations wherever they are tasked to fly.
Our flight is a pretty typical training mission, two 700th AS C-130s skimming over the lush green treetops of the Georgia Mountains, evading potential threats, navigating to a tasked drop zone.
The second aircraft in our tandem flight is piloted by Capt. Dave Lessani, who expertly spends three hours flying a tactical low level flight and finally dropping two huge pallets of designated supplies out the back of his aircraft.
The thoroughness the U.S. Air Force is known for is very apparent amongst the 700th. Their veterans seem to set the tone and lead by example. All along the flight I took part in they were receiving constructive input from Lt Col. Moffatt. It was absolutely fascinating to listen to the mix of instructing, procedure, conversation on their daily lives all the while maintaining their mission objective and staying in sync with our aircraft flying alongside us.
When the 700th are called out to support the military it can be in any manner of ways; paratroopers or regular airlift, landing in austere conditions, dropping supplies, medevac, humanitarian assistance and many more worthy causes that give the USAF an exceptionally capable airlift unit.
All done by Citizen Airmen, who sometimes hold a regular day job and on short notice leave it every once in a while in order to make a difference all around the world.
Special thanks to the 94 AW Public Affairs SSgt. Alan Abernethy, Kelly J Huff or the Marietta Daily Journal and the men and women of the 94th AW for their service.