Between the two of them, there are more than 50 years of combined Air Force experience. Yet, Senior Master Sgt. John Young, 60th Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment flight chief, was experiencing something unique at Travis Air Force Base, California, which he hadn’t seen in his career. He is partnered with a Reserve AGE flight chief from the 349th MXS, Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Willson.
The AGE unit at Travis works as a single meshed unit, combining the 60th and 349th MXS’s active duty, Reservists and civilian mechanics.
“AGE mechanics are the best mechanics in the Air Force,” said Willson, explaining the career field. “A lot of the equipment I’m fixing now is the same equipment I used daily as a jet engine mechanic. I didn’t’ respect it as much then, but I have a lot of respect for it now.”
The Airmen deal with electronics, fuel systems, air conditioning units; and they work with the systems from start to finish. They are required to have a wide array of skills, working with troubleshooting, schematics, wiring diagrams, hydraulic schematics, flow charts and more.
Civilians, air reserve technicians, active duty and traditional Reservists all work together, side by side, on maintaining around 500 pieces of more than 50 different types of equipment here, Young explained.
In his travels to other installations, the Citizen Airman said he hasn’t seen anything like what they have at Travis and has noticed the positive effect of the total force integration in action.
Most bases have so much work stacked up that they have to set deadlines for when pieces need to be done, explained Willson.
“Here, we don’t have deadlines,” he continued. “Because of the experience of the ARTs and civilians, combined with the active duty Airmen, we have the knowledge to fix things. Everyone learns from each other. We eliminate the need for deadlines.”
Young said the amount of knowledge brought to the table is invaluable.
“Our human capital is more than 100 years of experience, it’s fantastic,” he reiterated.
New Airmen are able to work side by side with seasoned mechanics at Travis and glean from their years of knowledge on the equipment here, Young exclaimed.
“You can’t put a price on that,” he continued.
Willson was a 20-year aircraft engine mechanic before he transitioned into the AGE career field.
“The work they do here is amazing,” he said.
Willson recalled being blown away his first day in the AGE shop.
“The first thing I saw when I walked in was all of the equipment that needed to get done that week,” he described. “I thought, ‘There is no way they are going to get this all done.’ It was during a phase inspection. I had no idea what AGE entailed before. I just abused the equipment, gave it to them, and got it back as if brand new.”
The two chiefs explained how both the active and the Reserve units bring strengths to the table.
“The Reservists and the civilians are my statics and stability for the workforce,” Young said. “I rely on them for a lot. If you really want to be a true master craftsman in your trade, you have to be at one place at least a decade. With active duty, I can lose someone for a deployment or PCS at any time.”
However, the stability the Reservists and civilians bring, can also lead to stagnation, Willson explained.
“It’s easy to keep doing things the same way because that’s the way it’s always been done,” he said. “That’s where we really need the active duty.”
The active duty Airmen bring in a fresh perspective to the way the shop runs, said Young. When someone comes in from another unit, they can bring in a new way of thinking from another base to keep things fresh.
“When you’re the new eyes, it’s easy to see ways to improve,” he added. “I’ve learned a lot from the integration of this shop. This is my first time working in an integrated shop. I’ve learned so much more about the total force concept here. Here you experience it.”
Young and Willson teach their troops to think as a singular unit.
“What makes or breaks an AGE shop is the top and middle management,” Willson said. “I tell them, ‘Think of this like a family business, what would you do to make this successful?’ We don’t divide, we work together and make sure we get along.”
Young reiterated with the family concept.
“We are a family,” he said. “We all do the same job. We all barbeque together. A couple of the ARTs are our grill sergeants. They are very good at it.”
The diversity of the work force is what makes the AGE shop at Travis so strong, Young continued.
“Knowing where each puzzle piece fits, knowing we all complete the same job – This is the reality of our Air Force – we need Reserves, we need civilians, we need active duty,” he said.