By Tonya Johnson
DCMA Public Affairs
For several Defense Contract Management Agency Garden City employees, the commitment to the warfighter extends beyond their civilian role. They also serve in uniform as members of the armed forces’ reserves or National Guard.
Military reserve and National Guard personnel provide operational support to each military service branch and active-duty personnel.
“Those who serve in the reserve usually work hand-in-hand with their active-duty counterparts,” said Cliff Allen, an attorney who is a commander in the Navy Reserve and the commanding officer of Navy Region Japan Reserve Forces. “They must meet all the same training, medical and physical requirements.”
National Guard and reserve forces are comprised of a wide variety of personnel with diverse backgrounds, said Malcolm Timoney, a quality assurance specialist who recently retired as a sergeant and helicopter mechanic in the Air National Guard.
“This is the strength of the people in the reserves and National Guard and what makes them so adaptable to many different situations,” he said. “Say you have an Air National Guard unit that has members who served from active-duty Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard units. When they are assigned a task, there is a broad array of training and thinking that melds into the decision-making process.”
Those who serve in the reserves and National Guard are usually required to devote one weekend per month for drills and two weeks per year for annual training and exercises. Some of these jobs require more of a time commitment, requiring additional instructional weeks.
“The nature of the training could be the development of such job skills as aircraft mechanics, weaponry, chemical warfare and computers,” said Tom Valentino, who is a quality assurance specialist and an Air Force Reserve master sergeant and avionics mechanic. “The duration of the training depends on the job you pick. Each service has its own boot camp with a specified duration, but each skill set for a career also has different training.”
The reserve components include the Air Force Reserve, Army Reserve, Coast Guard Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve and Navy Reserve. In addition, others choose to serve their country in the Air National Guard or Army National Guard.
Most branches require a high school diploma or a General Educational Development certificate to join the reserve. Although it varies by service, applicants generally are between the ages of 17 and 39 and have taken the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test. Typically, a bachelor’s degree is required to become an officer.
For Valentino, a key to balancing his civilian workload with his reserve duties is developing and enhancing time-management skills.
“It is important to stay organized and flexible, and have good communication with your civilian boss to give as much lead time as possible,” he said.
DCMA provides additional leave benefits for those who serve in the reserve, said Allen, but they can face similar challenges as any civilian taking time off from work.
“Those who serve in the reserve can expect to return to their civilian position and find a full inbox and the need to catch up on missed work,” he said.
Doug Nelson, an administrative contracting officer who is a lieutenant commander and surface warfare officer in the Navy Reserve, said it can be difficult balancing the requirements of both roles, especially if your assignment takes you to remote locales.
“You may be able to check your work email while on your two-week training, but if you are on a ship or out in the field, you may be totally out of touch for weeks,” he said.
Weekends or evenings spent with military obligations can often pull employees away from family. While the training helps them to expand their horizons and grow as individuals, the most difficult facet can be the disruption in family and civilian work life.
“You must have a good relationship with your family and friends because you will need their support at all times,” said Valentino. “I learned job skills that have helped me in my civilian life, and I get to travel the world and become a well-rounded person, but the hardest thing is spending time away from your family.”
For Timoney, the advantage to serving in the Air National Guard is it allows him to be a part of a team and accomplish personal and group goals.
“Sometimes you are pushed to limits you didn’t know you had,” he said. “Sometimes you see groups reach goals they didn’t think they could attain.”
Etienne Prophete, a quality assurance specialist who is a master sergeant and communications chief in the Marine Corps Reserve, believes the most positive aspect of the training is the knowledge, education and wisdom gained. He said the most difficult component of the training is the continuous introduction and learning of new equipment required to stay prepared for a variety of unpredictable circumstances.
“Marines in the reserve serve the Marine Corps in combat, national emergencies and humanitarian efforts,” said Prophete. “We definitely are not limited to stateside activities.”
Michael Tibbetts, a quality assurance specialist who is a technical sergeant and avionics mechanic in the Air Force Reserve, said being a part of the reserve comes with several benefits.
“I get to work on the world’s most powerful aircraft, travel the world, and further the development of young men and women who do the same,” he said.
Nelson said being in the military while working for DCMA brings everything together and makes you appreciate what you do in your civilian job who believes another significant positive aspect is that you get to see and experience first-hand what DCMA is supporting.
“To accomplish the mission, you participate in exercises and operations all over the world,” Nelson said. “The most difficult aspect is balancing it with the rest of your life. But it is a unique experience that is worth it.”
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