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Reservist testifies about mobilization

by Tech. Sgt. Doug Hays
434th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

04/08/03 - GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind. (AFPN -- Television viewers who tuned into C-SPAN on April 3 may have seen an Air Force reservist from here testifying before a House Armed Services subcommittee.

Master Sgt. Kevin Smith, logistics plans technician, joined six other National Guard and Reserve members to address the committee and answer questions about the price military reservists are paying to help defend the nation.

Smith was mobilized Sept. 19, 2001, for Operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom and remained on active duty for one year. He deployed with other members of Air Force Reserve Command's 434th Air Refueling Wing to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii; Misawa Air Base, Japan; and a classified location in the Arabian Gulf. He spent more than a third of the time overseas and the rest of the time at Grissom performing logistics plans duties for the KC-135 Stratotanker air refueling unit.

"I've heard the rumors, as many reservists have, that some reservists are not performing the duties they have been trained for but rather are being used as backfill for those on active duty who forward deploy," he testified. "This is not true for me. We have trained to the same standards as the active force for my entire career and it paid big dividends when we reached the first location."

The hardest part of the activation for Smith was the short-notice reporting he and other members had.

Smith had less than 24 hours to make sure things were in order at home and to say goodbye to his family.

To help get through that experience, Smith and others relied on support from family, friends, neighbors and Grissom's family readiness office.

"These were the key individuals who created organization and peace of mind when it needed to happen," he said.

Because of the short notice, Smith was unable to find someone to take his place in his civilian job.

"I am one of the fortunate few whose employer provides wages to cover the pay gap when I'm mobilized," Smith said. "Currently, we receive our wages minus the military pay we receive while mobilized. My benefits, such as health care and life insurance, continued to be provided as if I had never been mobilized."

Smith said once things got going he settled into a routine while mobilized.

"Within our unit, traditional reservists and full-time reservists shared the same responsibilities," he said. "We were there to complete a mission, regardless of our previous status. Everyone worked hard and together to get the job done. I believe this also held true between our unit and the active-duty forces that we were assigned to work with."

Smith ended his comments by thanking the subcommittee members for their interest in the military members' well-being and Congress' continued support for families and employers. (Courtesy of AFRC News Service)

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