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Florida Reserve Citizen Airmen take on dual deployments despite challenges

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Brandon Kalloo Sanes
  • 920th Rescue Wing

More than 100 Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 920th Rescue Wing recently deployed in support of operations in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.

“This was a bottom-up and top-down effort,” said Col. Kurt Matthews, 920th Rescue Wing commander.

“From the bottom up we had our squadrons identifying what they needed to be successful in training their Citizen Airmen. From the top down we had senior leadership coming together to gather resources to ensure our Citizen Airmen were trained and ready.”

Matthews stated that there are always challenges getting a large group of our Reserve Airmen the resources they need to get out the door, but everyone came together to make it happen. “It’s a team effort and part of that team includes our host base, the 45th Space Wing, other units, as well as the civilian employers and families of reservists who carry the weight of the void left by their deploying Airman.”

The 920th RQW, is a tenant unit and close mission partner of the 45th SW.

“We still have a mission to do and our command recognized that,” said Matthews. “This was an Air Force Reserve success story because the help came from other units. Thanks to them, resources were reallocated to units like ours that were gearing up for overseas deployments allowing us to properly train and equip our personnel, which is of the utmost importance.”

According to Matthews, the challenge of deploying two squadrons simultaneously to two separate locations exceeded the capacity of the 920th Logistics Readiness Squadron.

“We needed to assemble a team of full time reservists and active duty personnel from around the country to help get the job done,” he added.

“This was a huge joint effort,” said Maj. Rachael Lagerquist, 920th Logistics Readiness Squadron Commander. “We maximized the specialties and personnel available to us; then we brought in augmentees to help get us spun up and out the door.”

One of the volunteers from Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, said being here is a good change of pace and he shared his views on working alongside 920th Airmen.

“It sounded like they could use a hand and we’re happy to help,” said Chief Landon Bonds, operations superintendent, 73rd Aerial Port Squadron. “Collaborating is always beneficial because if you never leave your home station and see different viewpoints, then you won’t improve.”  

Master Sgt. Ross Duarte, Aerial Delivery Superintendent, 920th LRS, was part of the team that prepped and loaded cargo for these deployments.

“Our job is to load aircraft but everything is systematic,” said Duarte. “Everything you load onto the aircraft has to be weighed and accounted for. If it’s a vehicle, we know the exact center of balance, where in theory you should able to pick it up with your thumb and it should just teeter. Not too heavy in the front, not too heavy in the back.”

Members from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, March Air Reserve Base, California, and Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas assisted over two weeks moving an estimated 80,000 pounds of equipment, gear, and personnel aboard a C-5 Galaxy aircraft and a contracted civilian aircraft.

The 920th RQW is the Air Force Reserve’s only combat-search-and-rescue unit and has saved nearly 4,000 lives and counting since 1956. 

The Air Force Reserve is a critical component of the Total Force and a vital part of our national defense. Our 70,000 Citizen Airmen are operationally integrated with their Active Component counterparts. We fly as one, train as one, and fight as one.