PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
The 920th Rescue Wing hosted 60 community leaders for the advent of rides aboard its Air Force combat-search-and-rescue aircraft during a special day recognizing civilian employers of Reserve Citizen Airmen and five community leaders who were inducted as honorary commanders, Dec. 1.
Both occasions were combined during the December unit training assembly to bolster relations between community leaders, civilian employers and service members.
“Our honorary commanders help us reach out into the community and build long lasting relationships,” said Col. Michael LoForti, 920th Operations Group commander. “This is a great opportunity for the wing and the local community to connect in a way that they can’t on a daily basis, and helps employers understand what their employees do during drill training weekends.”
Wing Commander Col. Kurt Matthews kicked off with a mission brief outlining the unit’s history and combat-search-and-rescue capabilities. The induction ceremony followed, formally recognizing five community influencers as honorary commanders, affirming their roles within the Air Force Reserve family.
Reserve Citizen Airmen spent time with their employers touring the unit’s rescue aircraft and facilities. The group was also treated with a flight aboard either a wing HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter or a HC-130N King combat-search-and-rescue aircraft used for conducting combat rescues.
Staff Sgt. Jared Lucci, a helicopter special missions aviator with the 301st Rescue Squadron, nominated his civilian employer and commended the event as an opportunity to share his life as a reservist.
Lucci said this occasion offers employers context, which encourages them to hire and retain reservists who may occasionally be required to step away from their nine-to-fives for military service.
Greg Baker, Lucci’s civilian employer, agreed.
“This was definitely an eye opening experience,” said Baker who is Lucci’s supervisor at Ring Power, a heavy equipment company based in St. Augustine, Florida. “We appreciate what he (Lucci) does for us, but getting to see his Air Force mission from his perspective was exciting and makes me want to help out even more.”
Mr. James Dicks, the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Florida State Chair, stated that the program’s intent is met when an employer ‘gets it’. Reserve Citizen Airmen must juggle civilian employment with military duty and family life, and that can be challenging, he said, adding that employers don't realize the complexity of it all.
The inaugural class of five honorary commanders are ready to step up too.
Shannon Daly, 920th Maintenance Group honorary commander, expressed a willingness to learn about military life so that she can best serve the children of reservists and military families under her care as the principal of Manatee Elementary School.
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