Civilian employees keep the South Carolina Air National Guard mission ready Published Sept. 21, 2023 By Senior Airman Amy Rangel 169 Fighter Wing Public Affairs MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- It's around 7 a.m. on a typical weekday morning at McEntire Joint National Guard Base and much quieter than the hustle and bustle of a drill weekend. Soon a familiar face begins loading a white van with cleaning supplies and essentials. She assembles her team and initiates a cleaning routine as she has done for the past 25 years. Emulating a true leader, she believes in working alongside her team to complete the roughly 15-building assignment. Ernestine Reed is one of many civilian employees at McEntire who are essential to keeping the base and Airmen mission ready. During weekdays, she ensures the base is sparkling clean and sanitized, keeping the Airmen healthy and upholding the image and reputation for distinguished visitors. On drill weekends, she helps manage the dining facility. She is also affectionately known as the unofficial taste tester who gives the food the loving touch of a grandmother. In 1998, she describes how she was a single mom working as a bookkeeper when she was encouraged to apply for a job as the custodial supervisor at McEntire. "This job came along at the perfect time because I was looking for the fulfillment I needed," said Reed. "As a strong woman, it gave me independence." The rest is history, and Ernestine has not looked back...except at her completed cleaning projects. Reed giggles as she remembers a funny story of how a commander once caught her admiring her completed work from afar. "I just like things clean, and that's my number one goal," said Reed. U.S. Air Force Maj. Thomas Bryant, the commander of the 169th Force Support Squadron, is one such person who has noticed the value in Reed's work. Because Reed works all over the base, Bryant describes how he has interacted with her, from being an enlisted Airman to his current position. "I've had a great experience working with Ernestine for over ten years in all the different jobs I've had," said Bryant. "She also works with my squadron on drill weekends, and she helps manage our mess attendance down in the dining facility. She works hard, is always smiling, and is a joy to be around." Several different categories of civilian employees make up nearly 10 percent of the personnel at McEntire. Federal Title 5 technicians work as civilian civil service employees during the week and, if they are members of the South Carolina Air National Guard, also drill one weekend a month along with the rest of the drill status guardsmen. State-funded employees do not have to be in the military and serve in jobs such as civil engineers, plumbers, security forces, firefighters, and more. Civilian contractors at McEntire fill positions like the base credit union branch and the gym personal trainer. Wearing everything from tracksuits to khakis, individuals from all walks of life and skill sets work alongside Airmen to complete the mission. "Our civilian employees are extremely important to McEntire because we can't get the mission done without them. They are Swamp Foxes just like the rest of us,” said Bryant. The Swamp Fox family environment is what Reed credits for her long tenure at McEntire. "I feel like I'm part of the family. I get invited to barbeques and other activities, and that's why I stayed so long," said Reed. "I'm a family person."