Reserve Airmen help support the fallen
By Tech. Sgt. Laura Beckley, 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 28, 2018
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- According to the Air Force Personnel Center and diversity.defense.gov, there are approximately 258,000 enlisted Airmen serving on active duty and nearly 55,000 serving on reserve status.
Reservists are sometimes referred as “Weekend Warriors,” an adage developed from their one weekend a month, two weeks a year duty schedule.
For Staff Sgt. Sarah Miles, a reservist assigned to the 910th Force Support Squadron, Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, that sentiment is all too familiar.
“Other active duty bases – if I go on annual tour somewhere – we get pushed to the side because we are reservists and they’re like, ‘oh, you’re just part time,’” Miles said. “They don’t look at us the same.”
This was hardly the case for Miles and her team of 17 services Airmen, when they were activated to support Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations at Dover AFB, a mission dedicated to the dignified and honorable return of fallen service members as well as the care and support of their families.
Miles said she doesn’t feel like a part-timer at AFMAO.
During the Youngstown team’s six-month deployment one of their many responsibilities was to perform as the carry team during some dignified transfers, a solemn movement conducted upon the arrival of remains to Dover AFB.
According to Senior Master Sgt. Georgette Dieckmann, an active-duty AFMAO superintendent, the increasing support by Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard comes after careful consideration regarding current manpower requirements for active-duty bases as well as the stress of repetitive deployments.
“We started looking at the effects it was having on units, to task over and over again for this mission,” Dieckmann said. “While it’s a very honorable mission, it can be very difficult.”
She said that was the case particularly with force support squadrons at bases like Dover and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, who were primarily supporting the mission and are maintaining other taskings for contingency requirements.
“It was a heavy burden to bear,” said Dieckmann.
This is where Air Force Reservists like Miles and her team come in. They not only carry the weight of the mission but also the ideals of a grateful nation.
“Before, it was just Dover and McGuire coming here every six months,” Miles affirmed. “Now they have Charleston, McChord and Youngstown. Now, every few years we’ll be coming here on a rotation. I hope I get to come back here as many times as I can because it’s honorable.”
It’s that sense of duty and commitment to mission that Miles and Dieckmann agree binds the AFMAO team together regardless of military branch or component.
“There is no, ‘you’re a reservist, you’re guard, you’re active duty,’” Dieckmann said. “Our mission set and our vision behind what we do every single day doesn’t allow for that. We’re all AFMAO Airmen and we’re all here to operate with dignity, honor and respect, and care, service and support of our family members of the fallen.”