Air Force Reserve - Keeping The Door Open
Have the unprecedented events of the past year made you think about your life and career?
Years ago, information was not readily available to Airmen caught up in military cutbacks, or those wishing they could cross-train out of a career and met with Air Force Specialty Codes constraints, and even those not wishing to continue the 24/7 military lifestyle.
Thankfully, times change and information is now available, but Airmen still need to know who to talk to and the questions to ask so that opportunities do not fall through administrative cracks.
“I left with a mindset of I’m finished with the uniform, I’ve done my time and I’m ready to get back into the civilian world and move forward,” said Master Sgt. George Wyatt, 352nd Recruiting Squadron, 55th Force Support Squadron tenant office, In-service reserve recruiter.
Wyatt spent his first eight years on active duty as a munitions system member in maintenance. Not having any idea what the Reserve was at the time, his supervision couldn’t offer the guidance and advised him to talk to the wing career advisor.
Fortunately for Wyatt, in 1991 Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which led to the establishment of the Transition Assistance Program that included briefings for those being released from the military.
“My experience with the Guard and Reserve was in a deployed environment, so I knew nothing about it,” said Wyatt.
Although he was skeptical at the time, in his last few days of meeting with his active duty In-service recruiter, Wyatt changed his mind and decided to try the reserve. In the civilian world, Wyatt worked in law enforcement while ‘keeping the door open’ in the reserve.
“Being in the reserve, is a completely different mindset from active duty and it still gives you the chance to be part of the civilian world and living a civilian life, while maintaining the opportunity to serve and keep your benefits” said Wyatt.
The Air Force Reserve, which is not to be confused with the Air National Guard, provides and maintains qualified trained units. The Reserve is on a federal and not state level, it “does not have a state mission” and is not called upon to respond to floods, fires and other disasters, if needed they respond in times of war or national emergency filling in stateside service positions when active duty are overseas.
You can find Reserve units in most states, and those without typically have Individual Mobilization Augmentee positions.
“In my current capacity, my main focus are those separating from active duty. Every active duty location has In-service recruiter, or Reserve office associated with that base” said Wyatt. “There is also a wing career advisor at every base who can direct them to the Reserve office.”
One of the many tasks the In-service recruiter has is to try and get information out, meeting with the first sergeants, speaking with commanders, with Airmen, with the family readiness center and the education office so everyone in the wing has a POC to go to.
“You go to any unit, any first sergeant, that first sergeant knows who I am,” said Wyatt “They are going to be able to send their information to me, and follow up with phone calls and emails from the first sergeants on behalf of the individual.”
Before COVID hit last year, the reserve office held briefings on a larger scale, briefings informing not only the wing career advisor on informed decisions, the pre-separations office with the family readiness center, the chiefs group and the first sergeants.
After a few months of utilizing Zoom and then Microsoft teams, they were able to slowly transition to in-person briefings. And as individuals continue to separate from active duty service, the recruiter is notified directly.
Wyatt’s job is then to make contact with each individual to make sure that the individual is actually separating, planning on reenlisting or extending. If an individual has made the final decision to separate, Wyatt will actually sit down and have a one on one meeting to discuss their plan.
“It’s not just the retention piece for the Air Force Reserve, it is goal setting and making sure that the individual is making a good decision,” Wyatt said. “So that we know it’s not a knee jerk reaction to an emotional based response because they are mad at their supervisor and that they have really thought things through and they are prepared for separation.”
There are four status options within the participating reserve:
If individuals are undecided, the recruiter counsels them on the pros that most are not aware of such as receiving and maintaining both medical benefits and educational benefits.
“The beautiful thing about the Reserve is, if you don’t like it, it is not a long term deal like it is with active duty, you go home, you live your civilian life. It’s the small things that happen on the side,” Wyatt said. “The big difference, it keeps that door open. So try and it and see if it works for you and your family situation and your education.”
Almost ten years later Wyatt is now back on active duty status in the Active Guard Reserve as an In-service recruiter. He enjoys recruiting and ‘giving back, giving people opportunities going forward,’ and has recently selected his next assignment at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Air Force Base in New Jersey.