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October Chief's Perspective

Portrait of U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. John Quattlebaum, the superintendent of aircrew flight equipment assigned to the 169th Operation Support Squadron, at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Sept. 30, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Megan Floyd)

Portrait of U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. John Quattlebaum, the superintendent of aircrew flight equipment assigned to the 169th Operation Support Squadron, at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Sept. 30, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Megan Floyd)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- Over the course of this year, I have had two individuals join or transfer into the South Carolina Air National Guard Aircrew Flight Equipment career field. Both of these individuals are slated to attend Aircrew Flight Equipment technical training and return here to begin their Mission Essential Skills Training. One of these individuals raised his hand just recently and has a year left until he graduates high school, so he will be one of our Student Flight members during this time. The other individual was a transfer from a sister service and will remain in the Student Flight until a technical school slot becomes available.

Working with these new recruits helped me realize how important it is to be involved with the Student Flight program. I have seen this program grow considerably since I arrived at McEntire in 2008. Since then, I have seen new members standing in formation outside the Student Flight building as well as eating at the dining facility, easily identified by blue Swamp Fox polo shirts and khakis, but I had little involvement with them.

Maybe your experience joining the military was similar to mine. I joined active duty Air Force between my junior and senior year of high school, referred to as a delayed enlistment. I finished high school and off I went to basic training. Once a Guard member enters into Student Flight, they spend time learning proper marching, workout techniques, identifying the rank structure and uniform standards that will help them succeed in basic training. Also during this time, they receive briefings on the different resources that will be essential throughout their career. The Student Flight staff ensures all enlistees get in-processed into the unit and initiate their security clearance. Each Student Flight member receives a packet of information that explains exactly what is expected of them and what they can expect as they begin their military career as a Swamp Fox.

Once I approached the Student Flight staff, I learned they encourage each enlistee to spend time in the work section for which they have been recruited. For initial enlistments, the first four months are spent in the Student Flight. After that, a schedule can be accomplished that accommodates the individuals and the section. For transfers from other services, this can happen almost immediately. This, of course, needs to be initiated by each section. The Student Flight staff encourages units to assign sponsors to help with this process. Having a sponsor is a great opportunity to give our new Swamp Fox members a positive initial experience with the military.

Another option is to volunteer some of your time to speak with these young men and women. I am sure they will have several questions about what is in store for them. Some popular topics to discuss are how you got to where you are and the ups and downs of your career. Most importantly, learn about them. Why did they choose the military? What do they hope to achieve? You might not know it, but you're positioned to answer questions directly or indirectly that will put them a little more at ease about their future and their recent decision to become a Swamp Fox. 

I encourage you to make some time in your schedule and take the opportunity to invest in our Swamp Fox future. If you would like to get more involved or find out more about the Student Flight program, contact 2Lt. Marlene Johnson-Moore at (803) 609-1286 or Tech. Sgt. Marcheita Cockfield at (803) 647-8850.