Boom operators stay current, become first sergeants

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jami K. Lancette
  • 434th ARW

Boom operators jobs are critical to the refueling mission but now they can impact other areas.

Career enlisted aviators, such as boom operators, may now perform duties outside of their flying squadron in a first sergeant role and still be eligible to maintain their flight hours and other training required as a flyer.

In years past, if a boom operator took on the special duty position as a first sergeant, they were not authorized any flight hours and unable to be current on required training.

“In the past, boom operators might not have wanted to become first sergeants because they would lose their flight pay and flight qualifications would go stale,” said Chief Master Sgt. Wes Marion, 434th Air Refueling Wing command chief.

The purpose of allowing boom operators to maintain qualification in the aircraft is to reduce requalification and training expenses upon completion of the three-year first sergeant tour and to reach a new pool of candidates for the special duty.

Additionally, a few limitations were made as to differentiate both roles from each other in order to avoid any overlap or confusion.

Their primary duty will be that of a first sergeant taking care of Airmen in a non-flying unit.

While performing duties as a first sergeant, they will not be able perform flying duties during a scheduled unit training assembly unless approved by the commander.

“First sergeants are responsible for the health, morale and welfare of the units,” said Master Sgt. Jarred Gentile, 434th Air Refueling Wing first sergeant. “That responsibility comes first and foremost.”

If on a flying schedule outside of the UTA, the first sergeant must find a suitable alternative that Airmen can reach out to.

First Sergeants may wear the chevron on their uniform when performing flight duties but will be expected to wear their Airman battle uniform or operational camouflage pattern uniform when performing non-flying duties.

Having the ability to continue to be a flyer, and expanding their career as an expeditionary leader, opens the door for more future leaders to pave the way.

“This is really the best of both worlds. They continue to fly, they continue to maintain their qualifications but they can also get that leadership experience working directly with a commander taking care of Airmen in a squadron,” said Marion. “And I am certainly hoping to hear of some interest.”

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

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