It's a small world: Connections bring solution to training needs

  • Published
  • By Alicia Ballor
  • 97 AMW/PA
ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. - How many times in the Air Force have you heard the phrase, "It's a small world," seen an old coworker while TDY or reached out to a friend at another base for help with a current issue? Connections and professional networking like this led to a Total Force Integration moment in the 97th Civil Engineer Squadron.

Last fall, Chief Master Sgt. James A. Young, Chief of Operations for the 507th Civil Engineer Squadron, 507th Air Refueling Wing, Air Force Reserve Command located at Tinker AFB, Okla., was looking at different locations to send reservists for upgrade training. Because the 507th CES unit is contracted out and has no active-duty component, it creates the need to find training elsewhere.

Enter Staff Sgt. Gregory Cook. Cook is a reservist attached to the 507th CES who also works full-time for the Department of Defense as a crane operator for the 97th CES at Altus AFB. When he went in for his active weekend of training at Tinker, Young asked him if it would be possible to send the reservists to Altus for training. Cook said he thought it could be, and put Young in contact with Chief Master Sgt. Paul Legg, 97th CES Superintendent at Altus. With this professional connection, the idea of training reservists from Tinker at Altus became a reality.

Young and Legg both agree that the training is a good fit for everyone involved.
"They go to tech school and then they go back to their unit, but they don't have any way to do their upgrade training as proficiently as active duty units do because we do it every day," Legg said.

Several different locations have been used in the past for similar training, including Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, Nev. "Altus also has a good grip on the training requirements," Young said. "Not only geographically, but personnel-wise; it was a good fit for both of us."
Lt. Col Yvonne Spencer, 97th CES Commander, agrees, and is excited for the future of the program. What started as two reservists jumped to six with the possibility of more.

"For the past five months, they have been an integral part of our team and have been a tremendous help to my Airmen and the Altus mission," Spencer said. "They have served alongside my Airmen repairing HVAC systems, fixing roads, constructing sidewalks, and expertly handling First Sergeant responsibilities for the wing's second largest squadron."

Legg said the training is going great and that it seems to be working seamlessly. "If you were to walk around the shops and just browse around, you wouldn't be able to tell who they are, guaranteed," he said.