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McChord Reservist trades computer for parachute

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Minnette Mason
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Computer issues can drive a person to the point of jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft. Well, that's the story of one Reservist with the 446th Airlift Wing.

Senior Airman Jeffery Gebhardt, a 446th Force Support Squadron client systems technician, is currently assigned to the Joint Communications Support Element at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, doing enough field work to be confused with an Army Ranger.

"We're not just computer geeks anymore," said Senior Master Sgt. Cindy Thomas, Gebhardt's supervisor with 446th FSS, Client Systems.

"I never really thought I would start doing this kind of stuff," said Gebhadrt, who is serving on long-term orders with JCSE.  He said he is in no rush to come back.

"I want to stay down here for at least three years--that's my goal," Gebhardt said. "I'm going to Airborne School in November, which is the Army jump school. Once you get that [opportunity], you have to stay for at least another year. And then you can start jumping out of planes, which is what I really want to do."

According to the JSCE website, the unit's mission is to "immediately deploy to provide en route, early entry, scalable [communications] support to the Regional Combatant Commands, Special Operations Command, and other agencies as directed." Essentially, Gebhardt is accomplishing his Air Force Reserve mission alongside Army, Navy and Marine Corps personnel.

"It's a joint unit. Our command is Army right now," Gebhardt explained. "We all work together, and it works out pretty well. You learn about different branches and how they do communications."

The Citizen Airman has been in the Air Force Reserve less than three years, but has accomplished several of his goals. He graduated from Central Washington University with a bachelor's degree in information technology, and has recently completed a master's degree program. As a civilian, he was a systems administrator before he got "extremely bored and wanted to do something else," he said.

"So I basically went on Google and was searching for communications units, and I found JCSE," Gebhardt explained. "They said they take reservists on active duty orders, so I applied."

Thomas and others in Gebhardt's chain of command here soon learned of Gebhardt's interest in JSCE.

"All of a sudden, we were getting phone calls from the [point of contact] from the JSCE saying, 'Hey, we want this Senior Airman Gerbhardt, and we're going to be putting him on orders,'" Thomas said.

Gebhardt described various types of communication equipment he's worked with since he's been with JSCE. He was familiar with some of them, but there were a few items he picked up after arriving to Florida.

"I never touched a satellite dish in my life, until I came down there. It's pretty cool to learn about how satellites work and how to set those up," he said.

"It's pretty much [on-the-job-training] from the guys who've been here a while. We'll go out and do different exercises," he said.

Along with these exercises, Gebhardt also joins his team on physical training ventures.

"We went out to Saint Petersburg Beach, on the Gulf of Mexico. We did a ruck out there," he said, referring to a walking or running, sometimes while wearing full-armor gear, with a backpack, or "rucksack," which is full of weight.

"We did a six-mile ruck. We have radios with us; and we were doing radio [communications] between another team farther down the beach," He explained.

"It was cool because I know he's happy," Thomas added. "But it was also so neat to see one of own CSTs going above and beyond what we do here. We go out and we fix computers, but [not necessarily] in the environment that he is in. He's opened up the door for CSTs in the [446th FSS]."