KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss.
The Air Force has a full complement of people working to accomplish the Air Force mission to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace. The Air Force Reserve plays a vital role in this mission, supplying combat-ready forces to work alongside their active-duty counterparts in both wartime and peacetime scenarios.
In the Reserve itself, there are people serving alongside each other in various capacities, both part-time and full-time, to accomplish the Air Force mission. One of those full-time players is the Air Reserve Technician.
According to Col. Robert Stanton, 403rd Wing vice commander and senior ART for the wing, ARTs are Air Force reservists who serve in a dual status for the Department of Defense.
"It's a full-time federal service position matched with a military position, so it's two positions under one title," said Stanton. "You're only on one status at a time though, either as a civilian working 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for example, or – when you're called up for duty – you're in a military status."
Just like traditional reservists, ARTs also participate in unit training assemblies and perform annual tours alongside traditional reservists, meeting all of the same mission and training requirements for their Air Force Reserve careers. The 403rd Wing currently has 379 members fulfilling these requirements.
However, one of the main differences between ARTs and traditional reservists is that ARTs work as civilian employees during the week to continue maintaining and operating their units between UTAs, said Stanton.
"The main thing the ARTs offer is stability," said Stanton. "It's setting up the home front, setting up the structure for the training environment so that the traditional reservists who don't work here full-time can just plug right in and get their training done."
The ART program is also designed to offer a sense of continuity between UTAs.
"We're here to keep the mission going during the week when the traditional reservists aren't here," said Senior Master Sgt. Brett Blanchard, 403rd Wing force development superintendent.
Part of Blanchard's responsibilities as a member of the 403rd Wing education and training office is to help wing members apply for formal Air Force schools and receive credit for higher education courses taken through civilian universities, which can be applied as credit toward receiving their Community College of the Air Force degrees. The office he serves in also helps reservists apply for tuition assistance through programs such as the G.I. Bill and the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill.
"We can help them get the ball rolling for a lot of these processes during the UTA, and then follow up during the week to make sure everything is running smoothly and find out what else needs to be done to help them accomplish what they want education-wise," said Blanchard.
Senior Master Sgt. Ingrid Anderson, 403rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron medical technician, said the work her squadron does during the UTA flows right into the work week for the ARTs in her squadron.
"All the ARTs here have different roles in reference to what they do as reservists, so our job never stops – everything just flows together," said Anderson, who was hired as an ART to update and take care of the medical requirements for 403rd Wing members. "So for example, we just came out of the October UTA, and we just immediately started prepping for November UTA."
Of course, since the mission of the Air Force is to fly, fight and win, the Air Force Reserve also seeks to hire ARTs who can help maintain and fulfill that flying mission continuously throughout the year. The 403rd Wing has two flying squadrons: the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron "Hurricane Hunters," which flies the WC-130J Super Hercules, and the 815th Airlift Squadron "Flying Jennies," which flies the C-130J version.
Tech. Sgt. Jon Holderness is a member of the 803rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, the unit responsible for ensuring the aircraft for the 815th AS are constantly able to support the Air Force mission. As a dedicated crew chief and ART with the 803rd AMXS, Holderness said one of the main goals of ARTs, on the maintainer side, is to train reservists to make sure their qualifications are up to date so they can ensure the wing's aircraft are ready to fly.
Holderness noted since ARTs make the Air Force Reserve their full-time careers, this allows them to build up a wealth of experience to offer to their units and the Air Force as a whole.
"This unit has a lot of experience in the weather reconnaissance mission, a lot of experience with the tactical mission… so the Air Force gets the benefit of that longevity and experience, which can stay here at Keesler [AFB] but still be passed on to others so that these airplanes can be well taken care of," said Holderness. "My own training expertise increases every year because I become more of an expert at giving that knowledge to the younger individuals."
For Holderness, being an ART also gives him the opportunity to do something he loves full-time: working on aircraft.
"I love my job. This is what I wanted to do when I was a kid, so working on aircraft is something I get to do as long as I want to," said Holderness.