By Clint Ronan
This April, I will celebrate the 67th birthday of the Air Force Reserve and my 24th anniversary wearing its uniform.
Nearly a quarter-century of witnessing the astonishing job of the airmen who serve alongside me has made me grateful to dump the sand out of my combat boots and continue to lace them up.
This wing is my fraternity; we are brothers and sisters in arms, ready for the mission, any mission that needs our expertise as citizen airmen.
That expertise does not come from homogenous origins. Niagara airmen are as diverse as Western New York. From across the region we take the best and the brightest from Black Rock and Riverside to Cheektowaga, Clarence and Lackawanna. Whether they are from the City of Niagara Falls or Jamestown, we have some of the best home-grown airmen in the world; all of whom bring their own skills and talents to our ranks.
Our culture taps into the talents of our citizen airmen and provides unrivaled training for a variety of professions. In the Air Force Reserve, an aircraft mechanic can be a physician assistant at your doctor’s office, a personnel specialist can manage your favorite family restaurant, a security forces sergeant may have repaired your furnace in January and a C-130 pilot could be your child’s teacher.
Complementing this diversity of civilian and military careers is an unwavering spirit of dedication.
We were called to serve. After our training we came back to this region to serve as citizen airmen. Our uniforms hang in the closet, ready to be worn when we are needed.
The ability to leave our civilian mindset and answer the call of the military gives reservists a clear and unique advantage when facing an unpredictable future.
Our past is a rocky road filled with potential base closures, numerous deployments to countries many citizens cannot pronounce and local and national disasters that require us to postpone our lives and go serve.
Despite the challenges, we are a force that has evacuated wounded warriors off the front lines, airdropped needed supplies to the battlefield and delivered medical supplies to countries destroyed by natural catastrophes.
All of this is made possible by citizen airmen and their ability to blend our military and civilian specialties to accomplish the missions.
The future is uncertain, as it is for every American, but for the past 67 years, citizen airmen have been ready for it. I’ve been ready for it for the past 24 years. We will continue to be steadfast in our community and on the world stage well past the time I unlace my combat boots and dump sand out of them for the final time.
Clint Ronan is command chief of the 914th Airlift Wing at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.