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Citizen Airmen fly president-elect on civilian job

  • Published
  • By Master Sergeant Collen McGee
  • Office of Air Force Reserve Strategic Communication
As civilians, three Citizen Airmen got the chance to meet their future commander in chief before President Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.

Col. Pete Maynard, Maj. Jon Bryant and Maj. Irby Rivera flew as commercial airline pilots on Mr. Obama's last charter flight before he became president.

Federal law ensures that Citizen Airmen are able to fulfill their military obligations. This time, however, Colonel Maynard and Major Bryant had to check with their military supervisors to perform their civilian jobs.

"The civilian boss normally doesn't have a choice," said Colonel Maynard, a civilian airline pilot and Air Force Reserve individual mobilization augmentee. "I tell him I have to go and he has to let me, that's the law."

The military doesn't have that restriction but keeping the supervisor relationship on solid footing is important, especially if on active-duty orders.

"(Colonel Maynard) told me he may need to leave to go fly but, at first, didn't tell me what it was for," said Col. David Delgado, director of programs and requirements in the Office of Air Force Reserve and Colonel Maynard's military supervisor. "When he told me I said, 'this is a great opportunity, you have to take it.'"

At the time, Colonel Maynard was serving on active-duty orders as Colonel Delgado's deputy director.

Major Bryant, a pilot with the Air National Guard's 105th Airlift Squadron in Nashville, Tenn., was also on military orders when he learned about the chance to fly the future president.

"I was doing some pre-coursework at my unit in Nashville," he said. "I told my commander that I had this special opportunity. I didn't tell them exactly what it was because I wasn't sure it was going to actually happen."

Major Bryant wasn't sure he would get to fly on the charter flight because pilots at his civilian job have to apply, or bid, for flights. Until selections are made, they are not guaranteed any specific flight. Additionally, to fly the president elect, Major Bryant had to take two days of military leave.

"My squadron commander is very understanding," the major said. "He is very user-friendly and understood exactly what I needed and that it wasn't going to impact my training."

The impact on training or mission requirements is always the first consideration.

"We always try to balance what their requirements are and work with the employers," said Lt. Col. Chuck Echols, 105th AS commander and Major Bryant's supervisor.

Colonel Echols understands the balance with airline industry and pilots personally. He is currently on a leave of absence from his civilian airline pilot job and, for now, the arrangement works.

"It's all about supply and demand," Colonel Echols said.

He explained there are numerous civilian pilots on furlough throughout the industry. He was able to take a leave of absence and preserve a position for another pilot. Currently the civilian airline industry is on the low end of pilot demand, but the Air Force is hiring.

Major Rivera was the third pilot chosen to fly the chartered flight. He is assigned to the Non-obligated Reserve Section at the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver. Although Major Rivera is not currently a drilling reservist, he has served in both the active component and the Selected Reserve.

"It was neat sitting there knowing we are all three members of the Air Reserve Components," said Colonel Maynard.

Colonel Maynard is used to working with a mix of active-duty, Guard and Reserve people and is used to the flexibility of civilian employers. This time, flexibility from military supervisors allowed the three to work together at their civilian job.

Providing enough flexibility for Citizen Airmen to balance their lives, their families and their employers is a high priority for the Air Force Reserve.

"Preserving the viability of that triad is extremely important," said Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr., chief of Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command, in a briefing to other AFRC leaders. "You've got an Airman... a traditional reservist who is civilian employed, military employed, has a family; and that triad also means we have take care of the Airman, have to take care of the family, have to take care of the employer." (Air Force Reserve Command News Service)